**U.K. assassination casts shadow over ‘Brexit’ campaigns
LONDON — The heated campaign over whether Britain should leave the European Union came to an abrupt halt Thursday following the assassination of a member of Parliament who played a visible role campaigning for continued membership in the EU.
Police would not comment on a possible motive of the fatal shooting and stabbing of Labour Party MP Jo Cox, 41, by a lone assailant as she met with constituents…
Cox’s assailant, by one account, repeatedly shouted the name of a far-right political group that favors a British exit, or “Brexit,” from the EU.**
Clarke Rothwell, who runs a cafe near the murder scene, told the Press Association the assailant “was shouting ‘put Britain first.’ He shouted it about two or three times. He said it before he shot her and after he shot her.”
"Britain First" is also a popular anti-immigrant slogan. The recent flood of migrants into Europe is one of the main reasons cited by those who favor leaving the EU.
Police declined to comment on the report, and Britain First said on its website that it was “not involved and would never encourage behaviour of this sort.”
The day before she was killed, Cox’s family took part in a publicity stunt on the Thames River in support of remaining in the EU. Her group got in a dinghy and motored up and down London’s waterway holding a large flag with the words “In” emblazoned on it.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who also favors continued membership in the EU, cut short a campaign rally in Gibraltar. “We’ve lost a great star,” he said. “She was a great campaigning MP with huge compassion and a big heart.”
At talks in Luxembourg Thursday, Eurogroup Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said ministers observed a moment of silence for Cox. “The U.K. is a beacon for peaceful politics and we hope that the British public, the people of the U.K., can make their choices serenely and in a safe way next week,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
**The slain politician’s husband, Brendan, released a statement urging people to “unite to fight against the hatred that killed her.”
Steven Barnett, a professor of communications at Westminster University in London, said it is too early to speculate whether the assassination will influence public opinion on the referendum, “although I think it will make people think a little more about the messages that have been coming from the Vote Leave camp.”
Barnett pointed out that the murder took place on a day when the anti-immigration U.K. Independence Party unveiled a new “Brexit” poster that features a massive line of refugees stretching off into the horizon next to the words, “Breaking Point: The EU has failed us all.”**
Alex Massie, a blogger for the Spectator magazine, wrote Thursday that it may turn out that “there was no political motivation for this apparently senseless murder.” But noting the heated rhetoric by both sides, he added: "When you encourage rage you cannot then feign surprise when people become enraged.”
British-born Graham Wilson, professor of political science at Boston University and an expert on British politics, said the pro-Brexit campaign “has done its best to create a climate of anger and hostility about immigration and the presence of foreigners.”
"One warning of this for politicians in every country and every democracy is that if you create a climate of fear and anger targeted on foreigners and other minorities, then there will be a very, very small minority who will do horrendous things responding to that mood," he said.