Hold TV debate with someone who believes in Brexit, Johnson tells May

Boris Johnson has challenged Theresa May to hold a televised debate with “someone who believes in Brexit”, saying there was “no point” in a head-to-head with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The former foreign secretary turned vocal backbench Tory critic of the Prime Minister stopped short of putting himself forward to challenge her in a live broadcast.

But in a series of tweets he said a head-to-head between her and Mr Corbyn offered a “false choice” because neither’s plans “are Brexit”.

His intervention came after Mrs May had rejected calls for leaders of smaller political parties to join the two main party leaders in a televised debate.

Mr Johnson, who had made repeated attacks on Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement, wrote on Twitter: “Debates are great for democracy – but rather than widening discourse, this debate is narrowing it by offering a false choice between May’s failing deal and Corbyn’s vague proposals – neither of which are Brexit.

“There is no point having a debate with two people who voted Remain & deals that don’t take back control.

“Any debate must involve someone who believes in Brexit & the British people being fully in control of their laws, rather than giving back control to the EU like the PM’s deal.”

After groups with almost every possible position on Brexit said they should take part in any broadcast ahead of the meaningful vote, Mrs May said on Tuesday she and the Labour leader represented almost 90% of MPs in the Commons.

Her comments to reporters during a visit to Wales followed demands by the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, The Green Party, Plaid Cymru and campaigners for a second Brexit referendum to join them.

During a visit to the Royal Welsh Winter Fair in Builth Wells in Powys, Mrs May said: “Of course I am going to be debating in the House of Commons with all parties on the issue of the Brexit deal.

“Jeremy Corbyn and I are leaders of parties that cover getting on for 90% of all MPs in the House of Commons.

“This is a really important moment for our country.

“I have a clear deal that I believe is in the interests of the UK and I think it is right for people to hear what Jeremy Corbyn’s views are as those have been a little uncertain recently about exactly where he stands.”

CBI annual conference
CBI annual conference

Labour is also behind plans for a head-to-head before the December 11 vote, saying Mr Corbyn would “relish” going up against the Prime Minister over the Withdrawal Agreement.

Labour Brexiteer Gisela Stuart also attacked the proposed line-up, saying it was limited to “two politicians who voted and campaigned for Remain”.

Mrs Stuart, the chairwoman of the Change Britain group, said: “Both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn want to keep the EU in charge of our trade policy and sign the UK up to a swathe of Brussels regulations. These are at odds with the referendum mandate of taking back control.

“Any debate must include an advocate of a clean Brexit who wants to fully deliver on the wishes of the British people.”

The Prime Minister laughed when she was asked whether she thought she could win a ratings battle with I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!.

It has been reported a debate could clash with the finale of the jungle-based reality television programme, currently starring Noel Edmonds and Harry Redknapp.

She said: “Nothing has been settled in terms of when the debate will take place but I think this is an important moment for our country and it is right that we treat it with the seriousness it deserves. It is a big decision MPs will be taking.

“I believe we have a good deal for the UK, it delivers on the Brexit vote, it protects people’s jobs. I believe this is in the national interest.”

Asked whether she had considered holding a bushtucker trial instead, Mrs May replied: “I think this is an issue on which we want to debate the questions of our future.

“It’s about people’s jobs and about their livelihoods and I think they would expect us to do this seriously.”