Clegg challenges Farage to public debate on EU

Published on Thursday, 20 February 2014 11:08
Written by Daniel Mason

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, has challenged his Ukip counterpart Nigel Farage to a live head-to-head debate on the merits of Britain's membership of the EU.

The deputy prime minister made the offer during his weekly phone-in show on LBC radio, Call Clegg.

It comes ahead of elections to the European Parliament in May, at which Ukip is forecast to perform strongly and possibly finish first in the UK – while the Lib Dems are expected to suffer heavy losses.

"I will challenge Nigel Farage to a public, open debate about whether we should be in or out of the European Union," Clegg said. "That's the choice facing the British people.

"He is the leader of the party of 'out', I am the leader of the party of 'in'. It's time for a proper public debate so that the public can listen to the arguments and decide for themselves."

Clegg claimed Ukip's proposal for the UK to leave the EU would "jeopardise millions of jobs in this country".

"If Nigel Farage is either listening or looking at this programme I hope he would take up y challenge to debate, once and for all, publicly: should we be in the European Union?"

He said membership meant "we have more people in work that would otherwise be the case, we keep ourselves safer because we can go after cross-border crime and terrorism, it means we can look after the environment in the way that we can't on our own".

Ukip is riding high in the polls and has achieved a series of second place finishes in parliamentary byelections, including last week in Wythenshawe and Sale.

A party spokesman said: "Mr Farage would like to thank Mr Clegg for his kind invitation to a debate on the great issue of Britain's membership of the European Union.

"Perhaps he could also let us know whether he has invited David Cameron and Ed Miliband too in order that the British people can see all their main political leaders argue their positions."

The spokesman said Farage would respond fully on his own radio show tomorrow.

Farage has previously argued that he should be allowed to take part in any TV debates between the party leaders ahead of the 2015 general election.

In 2010 only the Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem leaders were invited to take part.

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