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'Brexit' Campaigns Resume After Break Due To MP Jo Cox's Death

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In Great Britain, campaigning is back on for Thursday's referendum on whether the U.K. should remain in the European Union. A pause was called after last week's shocking murder of Jo Cox. She was a member of Parliament from the left-wing Labour Party who supported the U.K. staying in the EU. At her memorial service yesterday, her sister, Kim Leadbeater, had this to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KIM LEADBEATER: We have to continue this strength and solidarity in the days, months and years to come as part of Jo's legacy and to focus on, as Jo would say, that which unites us, and not which divides us.

MONTAGNE: And for Jo Cox, that would have been staying in the EU. Brexit - as in exiting the EU, as it's called there in Britain - is often presented as a right-wing initiative, but that's not true for our next guest. Kate Hoey is a member of the Labour Party. She's been in Parliament for 27 years, and she supports Brexit. Good morning.

KATE HOEY: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Now, it is so often identified with anti-immigrant, isolationist, right-wing folks in Great Britain. What - but the view from the left - tell us how you see the EU harming the interest of British workers.

HOEY: Yeah, well, the United Kingdom has been part of this common market which became the European Union for some 41 years. The people of the country have never had the opportunity to say anything about the changes since 1975. What Labour used to be was a very, very anti-EU party. Then it became more interested in working with the European Union because they thought it was going to help improve workers' rights and be a social Europe. Of course, that has all changed. And now, on the left, we see - those of us within Labour and in the trade union movement - see the EU as a supporter of the multinationals, the global corporations. It's a very neoliberal organization. But crucially to the whole debate in the United Kingdom - that's in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England - is the question of sovereignty and democracy. At the moment, 27 other countries have a say in many, many of our laws. So the British Parliament - over my years as an MP, I've seen power being taken away from our Parliament and going to Brussels. And we want to get that back because that means that we can control our borders, which most democratic countries do, and we can trade with the rest of the world. So we don't think it's isolationist. We think we're the fifth-largest economy. We're a quite big enough country to be independently running our own lives and working, cooperating, of course, with the rest of the world, including the United States of America, which is very important.

MONTAGNE: Well, let me get back to - you were talking about workers and what was good for workers. I mean, those who are fighting to remain in the EU argue that Britain's economy could take a big hit. And let me just give you one of the many examples. They say billions of dollars in - or pounds in foreign investment could be lost from companies wanting to export to the EU free of tariffs. I mean, that's just one small level line that people have. But you've argued otherwise.

HOEY: Yes. I mean, we - we don't accept that. I mean, many of these experts - the big institutions, the big banks, the big global corporations - it's in their interest for us to stay in the EU. And for many of the leaders of other countries, it's in their interest for us to stay in. What we're talking about is the interest of our country. But also, many of these experts were the very same experts - the financial experts who told us that, if the United Kingdom didn't join the single currency, the euro, which we didn't, fortunately, you know, the country would be finished. All these things would happen. People - the city of London would be finished. Trade would stop. They - the experts are not necessarily always correct. And I think we have very, very clear that, with being such a big country, you know, trading would continue. The EU sells more to us than we sell to them. The German car manufacturers are not going to stop selling us their cars. And of course, America trades with the European Union without tariffs. You know, this whole idea that you have to be within this single market for businesses to work with other business is - is not accurate. And we are very confident that, given the opportunity to work again with those commonwealth countries - some of the emerging, big economic countries in Asia and in South America - that's where we would be able to forge ahead and also be able to act as a catalyst for what is a very dysfunctional organization - the EU - to get it changed completely.

MONTAGNE: Let me play you, just briefly here, a clip from Nigel Farage. He's the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, campaigning, like you, for Britain to leave the EU. And here are his comments on the impact of the murder of your colleague, Jo Cox.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NIGEL FARAGE: There was a big momentum developing right across the country, a tragic death, a pause. 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.

MONTAGNE: Could this indeed stall the Brexit campaign - the leaving campaign?

HOEY: No. Everyone has said it is quite ridiculous to link the murder of my colleague, Jo Cox, with anything to do with the referendum. I mean, we've had three others members of Parliament murdered by the IRA over - over years - some years ago. This - this is about democracy. I think the American people would not - they want to have a trading relationship with Mexico and Canada. They would not accept that Mexico - a court in Mexico could overrule their court. They wouldn't accept open borders. We have to get back to being a self-run, democratic country trading with the world.

MONTAGNE: Kate Hoey is a member of Parliament from the Labour Party and an advocate of Britain leaving the EU. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.