Controversial comments continue despite pleas for calmer Brexit debate

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By Alasdair Sandford  with REUTERS
Controversial comments continue despite pleas for calmer Brexit debate

Leading protagonists in the UK referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU have been reflecting on the impact of the MP Jo Cox’s murder, as campaigning resumed on Sunday.

The atrocity has prompted a huge amount of soul-searching over how politics – often personal and polarised – is conducted in Britain.

“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 we can have less baseless assertion and inflammatory rhetoric and more reasoned argument and facts,” Finance Minister George Osborne told ITV’s ‘Peston on Sunday’.

On the same programme, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage – - rejected a suggestion that he had stoked up hatred in politics, saying he had instead been a victim of it.

He said the murder should not be allowed to influence the campaign, acknowledging that the head of steam that “Leave” had built up may be difficult to recapture.

“There was a big momentum developing right across the country – a tragic death, a pause. (It’s) Very difficult to know, or to see, in the next three or four days where either of the campaigns go, in terms of the public once again connecting with it. Difficult to tell,” Farage said.

Last week the UKIP leader unveiled a controversial anti-migrant poster that was widely condemned including by fellow “Leave” campaigners. On Sunday George Osborne said it had “echoes of literature used in the 1930s”, prompting accusations of hypocrisy from some quarters.

On the continent, where surveys have suggested a majority want the UK to stay in the EU, the campaign’s restart has been marked by demonstrations of support for British membership, in several European capitals.

As well as a relatively small number who turned out near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, hundreds also gathered in front of the Brandenberg Gate in Berlin to act out a call to “kiss the hate away”, in a plea for more tolerance and for Europe to stay together.