Brexit: ITV cancels plans for televised debate between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn

ITV has cancelled plans to host a live Brexit debate between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn on Sunday.

The announcement comes after the BBC also abandoned a proposed programme earlier this week, meaning there will be no televised debate between the two party leaders ahead of next week’s parliamentary debate.

It follows a week of discussions between political parties and rival broadcasters over the set-up of the debate and who would host it.

Labour had backed ITV’s proposed one-on-one format, but the prime minister preferred the BBC’s later offer of an eight-way debate featuring smaller political parties.

Both Labour and Downing Street have accused each other of “running scared”.

An ITV spokeswoman said: “ITV invited the prime minister and leader of the Opposition to appear in an ITV programme this Sunday evening, and we have been clear that it is up to those invited to decide whether they want to accept the invitation.

ITV is developing its plans for covering the build-up and reaction to the crucial Commons vote next Tuesday, and a range of voices and opinions will be represented on the subject of Brexit in our output.”

Channel 4 has announced it will broadcast a Brexit debate on Sunday featuring “four high-profile politicians”.

The participants are yet to be announced but the broadcaster said they would reflect “the main divisions in the House of Commons on this issue” – Theresa May’s deal; a softer Brexit; a harder Brexit and the campaign for a second referendum on whether to remain in the EU.

The BBC announced on Tuesday it was “disappointed” to have failed to reach an agreement on televising a debate following negotiations with Mr Corbyn’s aides and Downing Street advisers.

Ms May first proposed a debate on her EU deal last week. Labour had insisted its leader was willing to take part but objected to the “mish-mash” proposal and instead demanded a “straightforward head-to-head”.

But the BBC said “any programme we broadcast would need to include other voices, including other political parties, to reflect the wide range of views the public and parliamentarians hold about Brexit”.

Following ITV’s announcement that it had abandoned plans for Sunday’s debate, Labour said the prime minister had “refused” to take part in a one-to-one debate with Mr Corbyn, who it insisted would “relish” the opportunity”.

A party spokeswoman added: ”Labour believed the head-to-head offer from ITV was the most straightforward format. A head-to-head would give viewers the greatest clarity and allow both speakers to get into detail.

“The prime minister has refused to join Jeremy in a head-to-head debate. Her team tried to confuse people with a convoluted format. But the British public will see this for what it is – Theresa May unable to face real scrutiny over her crumbling deal.”

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Downing Street said Labour had “done nothing but raise false and flimsy objections to the BBC’s proposal”.

A spokesman added: “There was a sensible and balanced proposal on the table but Jeremy Corbyn refused to take part. He is running scared of proper scrutiny, but we remain committed to holding a debate and will continue to press for a format that ensures a range of voices are heard alongside a substantial head to head.”

Channel 4’s programme, called The Real Brexit Debate, will be hosted by Krishnan Guru-Murthy and filmed in front of a “carefully selected” live audience of 100 people “with diverse perspectives on Brexit”.

The broadcaster’s director of programmes Ian Katz said: “On the eve of one of the biggest decisions in Britain’s modern history, it’s a great shame that the leaders of our main parties have refused to take part in a televised debate that reflects all positions on the Brexit issue.

“So Channel 4 is staging the debate the British public deserves.”


The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.

Sign our petition here

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