Brexit Campaigns Resume After Hiatus Due to Jo Cox Murder

Image: Tributes in memory of murdered Labour Party MP Jo Cox, are left at Parliament Square in London
Tributes in memory of murdered Labour Party MP Jo Cox, at Parliament square.NEIL HALL / Reuters

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/ Source: Reuters

LONDON — The campaign to decide Britain's membership of the European Union restarted on Sunday after a three-day hiatus following the killing of lawmaker Jo Cox.

Prime Minister David Cameron warned Britons they faced an "existential choice" as campaigning activities ahead of the June 23 EU referendum resumed.

With five days left until the ballot, the rival campaigns returned with a raft of interviews and articles in Sunday's newspapers, covering the familiar immigration versus economy debate that has defined the campaign so far.

Complete Coverage: The Brexit Referendum

Cameron, who leads the campaign to stay in the EU, urged voters to consider the economic impact that leaving the 28-member bloc would have.

"We face an existential choice on Thursday," he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph. "Ask yourself: have I really heard anything — anything at all — to convince me that leaving would be the best thing for the economic security of my family?"

Michael Gove, a senior spokesman for the rival "Leave" campaign, said leaving would actually improve Britain's economic position.

"I can't foretell the future but I don't believe that the act of leaving the European Union would make our economic position worse, I think it would make it better," he said in an interview with the same newspaper.

Both men praised Labour Party lawmaker Cox, an ardent supporter of EU membership, who was shot and stabbed in the street in her electoral district in northern England on Thursday.

The only opinion poll carried out since the killing showed support for "In" at 45 percent ahead of "Out" on 42 percent — a reversal of the three-point lead that the pollster, Survation, showed for "Out" in a poll conducted on Wednesday.

Two other polls published on Saturday showed the 'Remain' campaign had regained its lead over 'Leave,' while another showed the two camps running neck and neck. But pollsters said most of these surveys were carried out before Thursday's attack, and thus did not reflect the full impact of the event.

"We are now in the final week of the referendum campaign and the swing back toward the status quo appears to be in full force," Anthony Wells, a director with polling firm YouGov, said.

The murder of Cox, a 41-year-old mother of two young children, has shocked Britain, elicited condolences from leaders around the world and raised questions about the tone of campaigning.

"I hope, because of the tragic death of Jo, we can have a less divisive political debate in our country and particularly in the last few days of this referendum," finance minister George Osborne, a leading "Remain" campaigner, told NBC's U.K. partner ITV News on Sunday.