Brexit: BBC abandons bid for May-Corbyn TV debate

BBC HQ at Broadcasting House in London
BBC HQ at Broadcasting House in London
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The BBC has abandoned plans to host a live TV debate on the proposed Brexit deal after Downing Street and the Labour Party failed to agree on the format.

Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May have both said they want to debate each other on the deal, but Mr Corbyn insisted on rival broadcaster ITV’s head to head format.

The BBC had proposed including a panel of commentators as part of the programme. Its decision to abandon its bid will put pressure on Downing Street to agree to Mr Corbyn’s preferred format.

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The BBC has also been criticised by the SNP for failing to invite SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to take an equal part in the debate, and by Brexiteers who felt their opposition to the Prime Minister's deal was not being reflected in the format.

“We are disappointed that we could not reach an agreement on the BBC’s proposal for a debate on Brexit,” a BBC spokesman said 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 panellists, including politicians, with a wide range of views on Brexit, and ending with further head-to-head debate and closing statements.

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“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.”

On Monday, ITV issued a statement in which it said that “invitations to Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn remain open”.