Brexit TV debate: British Prime Minister Theresa May says she will only face Jeremy Corbyn

  • British PM says she does not want to go over the same arguments as the 2016 referendum
  • Televised debate with the Corbyn, the opposition leader, will take place on December 9
PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2018, 11:36pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 December, 2018, 5:11am

Theresa May has said she will only take part in a TV debate against Jeremy Corbyn and not any hard Brexiter such as Boris Johnson or any campaigner for a second referendum, saying the country had moved on from the leave versus remain argument.

May said her TV debate with the Labour leader would not be about the same arguments as the 2016 referendum, during which there were multiple live debates from all factions.

“This debate is not about recreating the referendum debate of leave versus remain,” May told reporters at the G20 summit in Argentina, hours after the BBC announced the prime minister had agreed to take part in a televised debate on the Sunday night before the meaningful vote in parliament on December 11.

May said it was “a debate looking ahead to the vote” and would be a chance to present her deal to the British people and draw comparisons with Labour’s position.

Campaigners for a People’s Vote, such as Labour peer Andrew Adonis and the former spin doctor Alistair Campbell, as well as leave campaigners like Johnson who reject May’s deal, have said viewers would not get a wide spectrum of views in a debate between May and Corbyn.

Corbyn has criticised the prime minister’s deal as failing to meet his party’s six tests and will whip his MPs to vote against it. The party is yet to endorse any second referendum and Corbyn himself is understood to be wary of that prospect.

May said she would show that she had a concrete deal that Labour could not match. “I’ve got a plan, I’ve got a deal which delivers for the British people,” she said.

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“We haven’t seen a plan or an alternative from the leader of the opposition and I think it’s important people are able to see what our proposals are. I’ve negotiated a deal which I believe is a good deal for the UK but I also think it’s important that people hear from the Labour party. People need to have some clarity.”

May, who refused to take part in TV debates at the 2017 general election, dodged a question as to whether she was now fully committed to participating in TV debates, though many of her Conservative colleagues do not expect her to fight the next election. Asked if she intended to take part in TV debates in 2022, she laughed and said: “That’s in a few years’ time.”

BBC One has offered to clear its schedule for a special 8pm debate on December 9 between the prime minister and Corbyn on the terms of Britain’s departure from the European Union.

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Downing Street has already signed up to the plan but Labour insists negotiations are continuing and it still prefers a rival bid from ITV to hold a debate in the same time slot with a more straightforward format.

Corbyn said on ITV’s This Morning that he had yet to formally accept any debate but an early Sunday night programme made sense as it would enable people to watch other programmes later in the evening.