LONDON: An Indian-origin campaigner who mounted a successful legal challenge to prevent British Prime Minister Theresa May triggering Brexit without Parliament's approval on Monday launched a new "Lead Not Leave" initiative as the March 29 deadline for Brexit nears.
Gina Miller has joined hands with two peers in the House of Lords Lord Saatchi and Baroness Kennedy to call for the UK to remain in the EU and lead inter-governmental discussions on restructuring the 28-member economic bloc.
"No one could have foreseen the political chaos which is paralysing our nation. It is deeply worrying that we are now facing the impending prospect of a 'No Deal', with the serious harm that this would inflict particularly, on the most vulnerable in our society," said Miller, born Gina Nadira Singh in British Guiana (now Guyana) to Guyana's former Attorney-General Doodnauth Singh.
"It is time to take a step back from the brink, to think differently to end the divisions, to bring closure and get back the United Kingdom that used to make us all so proud. Our call today is about common sense for our common good," she added.
The latest intervention by the 53-year-old investment fund manager, who became the face of the legal battle over parliamentary supremacy in the aftermath of Britain's vote in favour of leaving the EU in June 2016, came as the May-led British government struggles to achieve a consensus around a fresh Brexit deal for MPs to vote on.
The Withdrawal Agreement struck by May with the EU had been overwhelmingly rejected by Parliament in a historic defeat earlier this month, opening up the prospect of a chaotic no-deal exit of the UK from the EU on March 29.
"One thing we can all agree upon is that we cannot go on like this: we have to begin the process of healing for all our sakes," Miller said, adding that 'Lead Not Leave' initiative is in line with the concerns of Leave voters in the 2016 Referendum of renegotiating the existing relationship with the EU.
Described as a new cross-party initiative designed to harness the growing momentum for overdue and wide-ranging EU reform, the 'Lead Not Leave' campaign believes that rather than leaving the EU, the UK should be leading inter-governmental discussions on restructuring the EU, beginning with its own membership terms.
The initiative will be kick-started with Lord Saatchi on Monday introducing the EU Membership Act 2019, a Private Member's Bill, in the Lords calling on the UK government to immediately begin to negotiate terms with the EU to retain its existing membership, including stronger voting rights for the UK and more robust immigration controls.
"There is a much better alternative to leaving, don't leave, lead through a Remain Plus. We need a redistribution of power in Europe," said Saatchi, a leading British businessman.
"That's why I am today introducing the EU Membership Bill in the House of Lords to give Parliament and the people something we actually want. The prospect of a no deal Brexit or facing years of complex negotiations versus a solution that is a win-win is likely to be very attractive to both EU member states and the British people," he said.
The group is calling for the reopening of a so-called Tusk Reform Package, initially presented in February 2016 by European Council President Donald Tusk to secure stronger voting rights for the UK in the Council of Ministers and more robust immigration controls.
"It is deeply disturbing to see the divisions in society and the deepening crisis. Now is the time for our Parliament to consider a fresh approach, listen to all sides of the debate and work together for our greater good," said Baroness Kennedy, a leading British barrister.
The new drive comes against the backdrop of ongoing divisions among British ministers over the controversial Irish backstop to avoid a hard border between the UK and Ireland, which critics fear would keep Britain tied to EU rules even after Brexit.
On Tuesday, MPs are set to vote on a series of amendments to May's plans that could shape the future direction of Brexit. After her deal was rejected in the House of Commons on January 15 by 432 votes to 202, Opposition and backbench MPs have been tabling amendments to the plans.
These will determine the future course of Brexit, with the prospect of an agreement acceptable to all sides of the political divide looking extremely precarious.