British Prime Minister Theresa May and opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have agreed to a prime time television debate on Brexit ahead of a crunch parliamentary vote as she struggles to win support for the deal agreed with the European Union, writes Andrew MacAskill.
May personally challenged her rival to take part in the head-to-head debate and said the format would need to be decided by broadcasters. Corbyn’s team accepted the offer, prompting demands from other parties and anti-Brexit groups to insist one of their supporters be allowed to take part.
“I am going to be explaining why I think this deal is the right deal for the UK - and yes, I am ready to debate it with Jeremy Corbyn,” May told The Sun newspaper. “Because I have got a plan. He hasn’t got a plan.”
Labour say they plan to oppose May’s deal in parliament and that if they were to win power they would strike a trade deal with the EU focused on protecting jobs.
This would be the first time May has been willing to go up against the Labour leader in a live television debate after she refused to take part in any in the run-up to last year’s general election.
After securing a deal with the European Union at the weekend, May has launched a nationwide campaign to drum up support for her agreement, although she was left embarrassed after US President Donald Trump said it sounded like a good deal for the European Union.
The odds look stacked against May winning parliamentary approval for her deal with criticism coming from all sides, including the Northern Irish party propping up her minority Conservative government.
Leaders’ debates have become a fixture of British politics over the past decade, with months spent trying to agree a debate format during the 2015 general election. Time pressure means political parties only have a matter of days to come to an arrangement this time.
May came in for heavy criticism during the 2017 snap general election for dodging direct TV debates with other party leaders and sending then Home Secretary Amber Rudd to take part instead.
She later justified her decision, saying it was more important to take questions directly from the voters.
The Brexit debate is expected to take place on Dec. 9, two days before members of parliament vote on whether to support her deal, in one of parliament’s most important moments in decades.
Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has demanded to be included in any debate as have leaders of Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties.
Brexit tensions are a test for Europe, says French minister
French European Affairs Junior Minister Clement Beaune (pictured) said on Monday (14 June) that current tensions over Brexit between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government and the European Union were "a test" for Europe, Reuters.
The tensions between Britain and the EU threatened to overshadow the Group of Seven summit's conclusion on Sunday, with London accusing France of "offensive" remarks that Northern Ireland was not part of the United Kingdom. Read more.
"Mr Johnson thinks that you can sign deals with the Europeans and not respect them and that Europe will not react. It is a test for Europe," Beaune told Europe 1 radio.
"I am telling the British people, (Brexit) commitments must be respected... If it is not the case, retaliatory measures could be taken," Beaune added.
During talks with Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit, Johnson queried how the French president would react if Toulouse sausages could not be sold in Paris markets, echoing London's accusation that the EU is preventing sales of British chilled meats in Northern Ireland.
"In Northern Ireland there are sausage import problems... Why? Because when you leave the European Union, you have necessarily some (trade) barriers," Beaune said.
"I cannot tell the French or the Europeans that Britain can export via (EU member) Ireland some products such as meat without any control... That is what it is all about. Brexit has consequences."
Ex-EU Brexit negotiator Barnier: UK reputation at stake in Brexit row
Michel Barnier, the European Union's former Brexit negotiator, said on Monday (14 June) that the reputation of the United Kingdom was at stake regarding tensions over Brexit.
EU politicians have accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of not respecting engagements made regarding Brexit. Growing tensions between Britain and the EU threatened to overshadow the Group of Seven summit on Sunday, with London accusing France of "offensive" remarks that Northern Ireland was not part of the UK. Read more
"The United Kingdom needs to pay attention to its reputation," Barnier told France Info radio. "I want Mr Johnson to respect his signature," he added.
Germany’s Merkel urges pragmatic approach to Northern Ireland
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured) called on Saturday for a “pragmatic solution” to disagreements over part of the Brexit deal that covers border issues with Northern Ireland, Reuters Read more.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain will do "whatever it takes" to protect its territorial integrity in a trade dispute with the European Union, threatening emergency measures if no solution was found.
The EU has to defend its common market, Merkel said, but on technical questions there could be a way forward in the dispute, she told a news conference during a Group of Seven leaders' summit.
"I have said that I favour a pragmatic solution for contractual agreements, because a cordial relationship is of utmost significance for Britain and the European Union," she said.
Referring to a conversation she had with U.S. President Joe Biden about geopolitical issues, Merkel said they agreed that Ukraine must continue to remain a transit country for Russian natural gas once Moscow completes the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea.
The $11 billion pipeline will carry gas to Germany directly, something Washington fears could undermine Ukraine and increase Russia's influence over Europe.
Biden and Merkel are due to meet in Washington on July 15, and the strain on bilateral ties caused by the project will be on the agenda.
The G7 sought on Saturday to counter China's growing influence by offering developing nations an infrastructure plan that would rival President Xi Jinping's multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road initiative. L5N2NU045
Asked about the plan, Merkel said the G7 was not yet ready to specify how much financing could be made available.
“Our financing instruments often are not as quickly available as developing countries need them,” she said
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