A toned-down campaign on Brexit resumed in Britain on Sunday, two days after it was suspended over Labour MP Jo Cox’s murder, with Prime Minister David Cameron advising Britons that the country faced an “existential choice” in Thursday’s EU referendum.
On Sunday television and other fora, leading figures of the Remain and Leave campaigns were strikingly sober as they paid tribute to Cox before continuing to make their case on why Britain should vote to stay in or leave the EU in the referendum, whose outcome will be irreversible.
Mass circulation newspapers and tabloids declared their stands, with media magnate Rupert Murdoch’s stable reflecting different stands. The Times came out in support of the Remain campaign, while The Sunday Times and The Sun exhorted readers to vote to leave the 28-nation bloc.
Writing in the pro-Brexit The Sunday Telegraph, Cameron wrote, “We face an existential choice on Thursday. This country has a big decision to make – and there is so much at stake…There is no turning back if we leave.”
“If we choose to go out of the EU, we will go out – with all of the consequences that will have for everyone in Britain. And if we were to leave and it quickly turned out to be a big mistake, there wouldn’t be a way of changing our minds and having another go. This is it.”
The International Monetary Fund was the latest economic organisation to advise Britain against leaving the EU. Brexit would be the “largest near-term risk”, it said in its annual outlook for Britain released over the weekend.
US presidential candidate Donald Trump, who is due to travel on Wednesday to Scotland, where he has investments, repeated his stand to The Sunday Times: "I would personally be more inclined to leave, for a lot of reasons like having a lot less bureaucracy. But I am not a British citizen. This is just my opinion."
Parliament has been recalled on Monday to honour Cox, whose murder on Thursday prompted a rethink about the rhetoric in the referendum campaign. Commentators saw the murder as the outcome of dark forces unleashed by the toxicity in the campaign.
Days before her murder, Cox made an impassioned defence of immigration and called for voters to back staying in the European Union in an article on a politics website, asking them not to “fall for the spin” that a Leave vote was the only way to deal with concerns about immigration.
She wrote, “Most voters recognise that our country has reaped many benefits from immigration, from the brilliant doctors in our NHS to the skilled workers helping our economy to grow. Yet across the country people face everyday worries about job security, school places and GP appointments.”
“We cannot allow voters to fall for the spin that a vote to leave is the only way to deal with concerns about immigration. We can do far more to address both the level and impact of immigration while remaining in the EU. I very rarely agree with the prime minister but on this he’s right: we are stronger, safer and better off in,” she added.