With just a few days to go for the 23 June EU referendum, cracks within the Leave campaign seem to be widening as Baroness Sayeeda Warsi is poised to quit the group and join pro-EU supporters. The senior Tory has accused some of the leaders in support of a Brexit of "hate and xenophobia".
Warsi, who resigned from the government in 2014 over disagreements on the conflict in Gaza, is expected to announce her decision on Monday (20 June). She will be the second prominent Tory, after health select committee chairwoman Sarah Wollaston, to quit the Leave camp over their propaganda tone.
The former minister for Faith and Communities said that her decision to leave the Brexit group was prompted by the alleged hate messages propagated by Leave campaigners. She particularly cited a posterdepicting Syrian refugees with the slogan "breaking point", which was released by Ukip leader Nigel Farage on Thursday (16 June). However, a spokesman for Vote Leave claimed that Warsi never joined their campaign.
Warsi told The Times that Farage defending the "breaking point" poster pushed her to take the decision. "That 'breaking point' poster really was – for me – the breaking point to say, 'I can't go on supporting this'. Are we prepared to tell lies, to spread hate and xenophobia just to win a campaign? For me that's a step too far." She also accused Michael Gove, the Eurosceptic justice secretary, of telling "complete lies about Turkey's accession to the EU".
She said, "[Gove] knows full well that of the 35 chapters only half have been opened and one completed. To try to suggest that this is anyway imminent, or to suggest that visa-free travel isn't just for Schengen countries, well these are just lies. Michael actually went further than that and suggested people would be able to come from Syria and Iraq.
"We all feel very passionately about these issues, it's when you start to believe that any means are acceptable to achieve an end. It's not an easy decision. When I look at the people who are now saying the things they are saying and the people who are supporting that approach, the BNP, Donald Trump, Marine le Pen, Austria's Freedom Party — every day it feels like the far right is coming out to stand by Leave," Warsi added.
She stressed that she did not want the Leave camp to run Britain and did not want to live in a country formed on the basis of such "hatred and lies".
Meanwhile, Farage reportedly condemned the Leave campaign's posters showing Abu Hamza – imam of Finsbury Park Mosque in London – and terrorists coming to Britain and termed it as "bad". Gove too criticised the poster on Sunday, saying that he "shuddered" when he saw it. Chris Grayling, the justice secretary's Tory ally, said that the poster and its depiction were "the wrong approach" and "the wrong view".
"We don't remember Warsi ever joining our campaign," a spokesman of Vote Leave was quoted by the paper as saying. He added, "So we are puzzled by her [Warsi's] claims to have defected."