Lawmaker Jo Cox, who was shot and stabbed a week before Britain’s referendum on European Union membership, died because of her political views and had been deeply troubled by the tone of the campaign, her husband said on Tuesday.
Prime Minister David Cameron appealed to voters across the generation gap to back staying in the EU, two days before a closely fought referendum that will shape the future of Europe. The campaign to leave the EU has echoes of populist movements across Europe and in the United States.
The murder of Cox, a 41-year-old mother of two young children who was an ardent supporter of EU membership, shocked the country and abruptly changed the tone of a caustic campaign that has polarised Britons.
“She had very strong political views and I believe she was killed because of those views,” her husband Brendan Cox told broadcasters. “She died because of them and she would want to stand up for those in death as much as she did in life.”
It was unclear how Brendan Cox’s words might influence the EU vote that Cameron said was likely to be “very close”.
Cox had been worried about Britain’s political culture, including a coarsening of language and people taking more extreme positions, her husband said. She was also concerned about divisive politics globally.
“She worried about the tone of the debate” that focused increasingly on immigration and “about the tone of whipping up fears and whipping up hatred”.
“I think the EU referendum has created a heightened environment for it but actually it also pre-existed that,” he said.
Britons vote on Thursday on whether to quit the 28-nation bloc amid warnings from world leaders, investors and companies that a decision to leave would diminish Britain’s influence and unleash turmoil on markets.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Cameron also predicted a “remain dividend” in the form of an investment surge if Britons voted to stay in the 28-nation bloc.
In an earlier address outside his Downing Street office, Cameron hammered home his message that leaving the EU would jeopardise Britain’s economy and its national security, with fewer jobs, fewer allies and higher prices.
“Brits don’t quit,” he said, using the official backdrop to make a direct pitch to older voters considered more eurosceptic and more likely to vote.
“It will just be you in that polling booth. Just you, taking a decision that will affect your future, your children’s future, your grandchildren’s future.”
The Conservative prime minister’s remarks came as an opinion poll showed very narrow support for staying in the EU. The Survation poll put the Remain camp just one percentage point ahead of the campaign for a so-called Brexit, well within the margin of error.
Opponents said Cameron’s appearance suggested he was worried about the outcome.
As each side sought to play its last trump cards, the pro-EU ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ campaign issued a final poster of a door leading into a dark void with the slogan: “Leave and there’s no going back.”