ITV has cancelled its plans for a Brexit deal TV debate between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn just days after the BBC pulled out of hosting a bout between the party leaders over a disagreement on format.
The planned ITV debate would have involved a head-to-head between the Prime Minister and the Labour leader. Corbyn had made clear his preference for the ITV format despite May’s decision to go with the BBC.
BBC plans for a debate, which were cancelled on Tuesday, would have involved a head-to-head between May and Corbyn along with plans for a mixed panel of public figures who would also discuss the deal.
The BBC bid would have also allowed members of the public to put questions to the leaders via social media.
Both debates were set for Sunday night – two days before a major vote on the deal in Parliament.
In a statement on its debate withdrawal, an ITV spokesperson 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.”
Labour said Corbyn would still “relish” a chance to debate May and accused the Prime Minister of “running scared”.
A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Labour believed the head-to-head offer from ITV was the most straight-forward 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.”
Channel 4 News revealed its own plans for a debate programme on the withdrawal agreement, which is set to air on Sunday 9 December at 7pm.
The Real Brexit Debate show, chaired by news presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy, will run for an hour and see four senior politicians go head-to-head over the deal.
The politicians representing the camps in favour of May’s deal, a softer Brexit, a harder Brexit and a second referendum will also give opening and closing statements to bookmark the debate.
Channel 4 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.”
Press Gazette has contacted Downing Street for a statement.
Picture: Parliament TV