General Election: Boris Johnson accuses Jeremy Corbyn of ‘ducking’ Brexit questions ahead of TV debate



Boris Johnson has accused Jeremy Corbyn of “ducking” questions about Brexit and told him to “make up his mind” on the issue ahead of their head-to-head TV clash.

The Prime Minister wrote to the Labour leader just hours before the debate, posing a series of questions about his policy for the UK’s departure from the EU.

Mr Johnson said the upcoming general election is about “breaking the deadlock” in Parliament that has prevented the country from leaving the bloc.

In a letter on Monday night, he told Mr Corbyn: “This election is about breaking the deadlock in parliament that has prevented us from getting Brexit done and working in the interests of the British people.”

He continued: “The public have a right to know where the two candidates for prime minister stand on the big questions facing the country at this election. So far in this campaign, you have ducked those questions.”

Mr Johnson posed four questions to the Labour leader over his stance on the EU:

 

The PM’s questions for Mr Corbyn

 


You are proposing a second referendum on EU membership. In that referendum, would you recommend the UK should remain or leave?


Your previous manifesto promised to end freedom of movement, but following your conference it is now Labour Party policy to “maintain and extend” free movement. Would you end, maintain or extend free movement, and would immigration be higher or lower under Corbyn’s Labour?


Asked on Sunday if you were prepared to continue to pay into the EU budget on an ongoing basis, you replied “clearly if you want access to a market there are costs involved”. How much would you be willing to pay into the EU budget in return for “access to markets”?


All 635 Conservative candidates standing at this election have pledged to me that, if elected, they will vote in parliament to pass my Brexit deal. Can you guarantee that every Labour candidate supports your Brexit policy?

During a one-hour televised debate on Tuesday night the two leaders will clash over Brexit in the first half hour and then other issues.

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The Liberal Democrats and the SNP have failed in a legal challenge to the lawfulness of the ITV election showdown.

The Lib Dems had argued the exclusion of its leader Jo Swinson was depriving millions of viewers of the chance to hear the argument for remaining in the European Union.

At a High Court judicial review bid, the party claimed the primetime debate was “undemocratic” and ITV was in breach of strict rules around impartiality and balance in election campaigns.

But Lord Justice Davis and Mr Justice Warby rejected the legal challenge to the broadcaster’s decision to exclude the Lib Dems as well as the Scottish National Party.

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In the ruling, the judges found ITV was not exercising a “public function” so could not be challenged with a judicial review, and the parties should complain to regulator OfCom if it has problems with the debate format.

Mr Johnson’s allies back the decision to hold a debate with just the PM and Mr Corbyn. Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News: “We broadly have a two party system,” adding: “Credibly only two people are going to be, or are likely to be prime minister, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.

“It’s important the electorate see the two on offer. Nicola Sturgeon cannot be prime minister. The SNP are not even standing in a majority of seats. Jo Swinson’s chances are very small.”

Lawyers for the SNP said the party represents a range of views which would not be represented in a debate between Labour and the Conservatives, including on Brexit and Scottish independence.

ITV lawyers contended its decision was not capable of challenge in the courts and that, in any event, there is no basis for alleging any unlawful conduct on its part.

Sky News has proposed a November 28 date for its debate, while the BBC has confirmed it will host two debates, on November 29 and December 6, in addition to a series of Question Time specials.

Speaking after the ruling, Liberal Democrat president Sal Brinton said: “Televised debates between political party leaders should be framed in stronger legislation.

“But more than that, our democracy should not be in the hands of invisible corporate structures, and arrangements for such debates should always be accessible and transparent.

“We will not set our principles aside, we will continue this fight. Not just for this General Election, but for our future democracy too.”

The SNP’s leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, said: “It was already clear that the Westminster political system is utterly broken and incapable of properly representing Scotland’s interests.

Lib Dems and SNP challenge ITV on decision not to include them in election debate

“What is now clear is that the UK broadcasting system is similarly incapable. Indeed the result of the decision to exclude the SNP is to discriminate against Scottish voters and to effectively treat them as second-class citizens.

“That is, quite simply, a democratic disgrace, and the fact that election law and broadcasting codes allow such gross unfairness is unacceptable.”

ITV said in a statement: “We welcome the court’s decision and will continue with our comprehensive election coverage as planned.”

The debate will air on ITV at 8pm on Tuesday.



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