British PM and opposition haggle over Brexit TV debate


LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May is willing to debate her Brexit deal on television but cannot agree with the opposition on a broadcaster and format, it emerged on Thursday.

May and Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, are set to contest her Brexit plan on Dec 9 – two days before a crunch vote by MPs.

But they are yet to settle on a channel amid wrangling over which primetime slot will draw a bigger audience and on whether to include an audience or panel to ask questions.

Meanwhile smaller opposition parties such as the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Liberal Democrats are furious that they look set to be shut out.

The back-and-forth began after the BBC announced Conservative leader May had accepted its debate offer but that it was still waiting to hear back from Corbyn.

However, Corbyn said Thursday that he favoured commercial operator ITV.

While the BBC had proposed that the leaders debate alongside a panel asking questions, Labour reportedly objected, preferring ITV’s proposal for a head-to-head format.

Meanwhile, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said it would be a “travesty of democracy” if a range of political voices were frozen out. The SNP is the third-largest parliamentary party, with 35 seats in the 650-seat chamber.

The Liberal Democrats said it had written to the director general of the BBC questioning the legality of excluding them from the debate. With 12 seats, they are the fourth-largest party in parliament.

MPs in the House of Commons will vote on Dec 11 on the divorce deal agreed by May with the European Union, with many already warning they plan to oppose it.

Appearing before a committee of lawmakers Thursday, May repeated that the decision was up to Parliament, but stressed that she had got “the best deal for the UK”. — AFP

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