Ex-Conservative Party chair Sayeeda Warsi abandons pro-Brexit campaign over 'hate'

Sayeeda Warsi, former chair of the Conservative Party of Prime Minister David Cameron announced she would no longer support the campaign to leave the European Union.
Sayeeda Warsi, former chair of the Conservative Party of Prime Minister David Cameron announced she would no longer support the campaign to leave the European Union. PHOTO: ST FILE

LONDON (AFP) - A British politician announced she would no longer support the campaign to leave the European Union, accusing it of "hate and xenophobia" on Monday (June 20), days before the referendum.

Ms 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 Thursday's 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'," Ms 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.

Mr 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 the June 23 vote.

Finance Minister George Osborne called it "disgusting and vile" and said it had "echoes of literature used in the 1930s".

But Mr Farage denied stirring hatred.

"When you challenge the establishment in this country, they come after you, they call you all sorts of things," he said.

Ms Warsi, a member of the House of Lords, was a junior Foreign Office minister under Mr Cameron until she resigned in protest at the government's policy on the Israel-Gaza conflict in 2014.

Following her announcement, Vote Leave questioned whether Ms Warsi had ever supported their campaign.

"When I invited Sayeeda Warsi to join the Leave campaign, she declined," Mr Daniel Hannan, a member of the Vote Leave campaign committee wrote on Twitter.