British Labour representative Jo Cox, shot and stabbed ahead of the U.K “Brexit” referendum, was murdered because of her political views and had been alarmed by the far-right xenophobic rhetoric of the campaign to leave the European Union, her husband Brendan Cox said Tuesday.
"She had very strong political views and I believe she was killed because of those views," Brendan Cox said, according to Reuters. "She died because of them and she would want to stand up for those in death as much as she did in life.”
British Labour and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn called the murder an “attack on democracy itself” in an interview with Democracy Now.
Cox’s murder in her constituency last Thursday, a week ahead of the polarizing Brexit vote on whether to remain in or leave the European Union, shocked people in the U.K. and beyond.
Her killer, Thomas Mair, reportedly shouted “Britain First” in reference to the country’s far-right anti-immigration party before he shot and stabbed the lawmaker to death. Britain First has been campaigning to leave the EU with racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Brendan Cox said that his wife “worried about the tone of the debate” as it shifted toward a “tone of whipping up fears and whipping up hatred.” He added that the Brexit vote has “created a heightened environment” for hateful rhetoric and fear-mongering that also existed before the polarizing EU referendum.
Corbyn told Democracy Now that the debate over Brexit “has become very poisonous,” with the right-wing campaign to leave the EU deploying a “terrible” and “appalling” xenophobic and fiercely anti-immigrant message.
According to the U.S. Southern Poverty Law Center, the killer, Mair was a "long-time" supporter of a neo-Nazi group.
The U.K. remains sharply divided over the Brexit question just days ahead of the June 23 vote. Corbyn has called for a vote to remain, while continuing to be critical of the EU, in the name of aligning with other like-minded parties and movements in the bloc to fight for needed policy reform on issues including immigration, climate change, and trade.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is also campaigning to remain in the EU, has said that the vote is likely to be “very close.”
Brexit campaigning was put on hold for three days after Cox’s murder as the country mourned the tragic loss.
According to Reuters, opinion polls have shifted back to the remain side of the debate after a swing toward the leave vote.
Jo Cox would have turned 42 years old today, June 22.