Muslim MP leaves pro-Brexit campaign over ‘xenophobia’

Muslim MP leaves pro-Brexit campaign over ‘xenophobia’

LONDON - Agence France-Presse
Muslim MP leaves pro-Brexit campaign over ‘xenophobia’

AFP photo

British politician announced she would no longer support the campaign to leave the European Union, accusing it of “hate and xenophobia” on June 20, days before the referendum.

Sayeeda Warsi, former chair of the Conservative Party of Prime Minister David Cameron and a prominent Muslim, told The Times newspaper she had decided to “leave Leave” because of a poster launched ahead of the June 23 vote.

The poster, an image of migrants and refugees queueing on the border of Slovenia with the caption “Breaking point,” was unveiled by the anti-EU leader Nigel Farage last week.

“That ‘breaking point’ poster really was -- for me -- the breaking point to say, ‘I can’t go on supporting this’,” Warsi told The Times.

“Are we prepared to tell lies, to spread hate and xenophobia just to win a campaign? For me that’s a step too far.” 

Accusations of divisive tactics by the Leave campaign intensified after the shock murder last week of lawmaker Jo Cox, a pro-EU campaigner who had advocated for refugees’ rights.

Her alleged killer, Thomas Mair, replied “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain” when asked to give his name at a court appearance.

Farage was forced to fend off criticism of the poster over the weekend as polls indicated the two sides were neck-and-neck ahead of thae June 23 vote, when Britons will cast their votes on whether to quit the 28-member bloc. 

The official Vote Leave organization was dismissive, with a spokesman saying they did not remember Warsi joining their campaign and were puzzled by her announcement. Warsi had not played a prominent role in the “Leave” campaign but said she had long made the case for quitting the EU. On the same day, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned that the vote would be “irreversible” and the country could only rejoin the bloc on what would be unacceptable terms.

“The message we are trying to get across to the British people is that this is an irreversible decision --  if they decide to leave, there will be no going back,” Hammond said as he arrived for a meeting with his EU counterparts in Luxembourg. He said any idea that a vote in favor of leaving the EU could be followed by fresh negotiations with Brussels on a new deal was an illusion.