The BBC has ditched plans for a Brexit TV debate between Prime Minister Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn ahead of the crunch vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday 11th December.
The Corporation had wanted to host a head-to-head between the pair before MPs have their say on Theresa May’s deal with the EU, but now reveals that the plans have fallen through. The likely date was Sunday 9th December in the 8pm slot on BBC1 and would have meant postponing the final episode of David Attenborough series Dynasties.
“We are disappointed that we could not reach an agreement on the BBC’s proposal for a debate on Brexit,” said the BBC in a statement.
“We have been clear throughout the whole of this process that, as well as a substantive head-to-head debate, 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.
“The final proposal we put to both of the main parties was for a head-to-head debate between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, followed by a discussion between eight panelists, including politicians, with a wide range of views on Brexit, and ending with further head-to-head debate and closing statements.
“We believe ours was a fair and appropriate format for those taking part and, crucially, for our audiences around the country, and it is a shame we will not be able to bring them this programme.
“However, we will keep our audiences informed with extensive news coverage and analysis around the vote, and with other programmes including a Brexitcast ‘takeover’ of the One Show tomorrow [Wednesday 5th December] and a special half-hour programme on Monday 10th December.”
The news come after various wrangling over the format of the debate, with May said to be keen to debate Corbyn on BBC1 amid briefings from both sides that their opponents were “running scared” of the televised event.
Corbyn’s team were said to prefer ITV’s offer of a straight head-to-head debate between Corbyn and May, with no other figure involved.
However leading Breixteers have also muddied the waters and opposed any TV debate that doesn’t include one of their number in the discussion.
In a letter to the BBC chair, Sir David Clementi, Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Iain Duncan Smith, John Whittingdale, Owen Paterson and Jacob Rees-Mogg said the debate would “breach the concept of impartiality” without the inclusion of a leading Brexiteer.