LONDON (AP) — The British pound and global stock markets surged Monday, June 20,2016 as the death of a pro-Europe lawmaker seemed to sap some momentum from campaigners fighting for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Betting houses shortened the odds that Britain would remain in the 28-nation bloc.
The market surge suggested investors felt more comfortable that the uncertainty associated with an “out” vote on Thursday, June 16,2016 referendum would be avoided.
Campaigning became more somber after the death of Jo Cox last week. Police said she was stabbed and shot outside a library in her constituency by Thomas Mair, 52. His motive was unclear, but he gave his name as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain” at a court hearing, and the slaying raised concerns about the tone of the often-vitriolic campaign over Britain’s future in the EU.
Lawmakers returned from a recess for a special session in Cox’s memory in the House of Commons. Some wiped away tears, and each wore a white rose, symbol of Cox’s home county of Yorkshire.
“An attack like this strikes not only at an individual but at our freedom,” said Speaker John Bercow. “That is why we assemble here, both to honor Jo and to redouble our dedication to democracy.”
The “leave” campaign lost the support of a former Conservative Party chair, who switched sides Monday after expressing disgust for a poster depicting a crowd of migrants — mostly young men who appeared to be from the Middle East or Afghanistan — walking throughEurope. Sayeeda Warsi said moderate voices in the leave campaign have been drowned out in favor of xenophobia and hatred.
Some leave campaigners expressed bemusement at her announcement, saying they hadn’t been aware she was a supporter in the first place.
The pound rose 1.8 percent to $1.4619 on Monday, rebounding from last week, when it hit its lowest levels since April. In stock markets, the FTSE 100 was up 2.6 percent and other indexes around the world were just as buoyant, with Germany’s DAX 3.1 percent higher.
“The pause in the campaign seems to have lent crucial support to team remain, with only four days to go until the vote,” said Kathleen Brooks, research director at online trading company Gain Capital. “The markets have always been more comfortable with the U.K. remaining in the European Union.”
Public opinion polls suggested a slight shift toward remaining in the EU, but the two sides remained essentially even and it was unclear what was behind any movement, said respected pollster Ben Page of Ipsos MORI.
“It could be anxiety about the economy,” he said. “It could be revulsion about her murder.”
More clear were the betting markets, which have consistently favored remain. Betfair said the probability of Britain remaining in the EU rose from 65 percent on Friday to 78 percent on Monday, amid heavy trading.
James Reade, a betting expert from the University of Reading who has studied the relationship between opinion polls and betting markets, said the remain camp’s chances are further bolstered by what is known as the “favorite-longshot bias,” which means that favorites win more often than the odds would suggest.
“Actual probabilities of outcomes are about 10 percent higher than the implied probabilities on the market,” Reade said. “So the current 80 percent implies closer to a 90 percent likelihood of remain occurring.”
That said, the shifts also suggest that turnout will be critical, as leave supporters are considered more committed than remain supporters and therefore more likely to vote. Page said the weather, which has been rainy and unsettled for days, could also be a factor in keeping people home.
Nigel Farage, a leading figure in the leave camp, accused his opponents of trying to capitalize on Cox’s slaying for political advantage.
“I think there are remain camp supporters out there who are using this to try to give the impression that this isolated horrific incident is somehow linked to arguments that have been made … in this campaign, and, frankly, that is wrong,” Farage told LBC radio. “What we are seeing here is the prime minister and the remain campaign trying to conflate the actions of one crazed individual with the motives of half of Britain who think we should get back control of our borders and do it sensibly.”
Farage defended the immigration poster released only hours before Cox’s death. Warsi, one of the most prominent Muslim politicians in the country, said the poster had been instrumental in driving her out of the campaign.
“This kind of nudge-nudge, wink-wink xenophobic racist campaign may be politically savvy or politically useful in the short term, but it causes long-term damage to communities,” she said.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.