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An extended PMQs is pointless – excluded party leaders should have their own Brexit debate

29 Nov 2018 3 minute read
Theresa May picture by Kuhlmann / MSC (CC BY 3.0 DE) and Jeremy Corbyn picture by RevolutionBahrainMC (CC BY 3.0).

Ifan Morgan Jones

It’s likely that Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn will be taking part in a Brexit debate on either the BBC or ITV at the end of next week, just before MPs at Westminster vote on the UK Prime Minister’s Brexit deal.

This debate is likely to be hyped up by political commentators but is likely to be of little use to the public and MPs who are yet to make their minds up.

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn both favour a ‘soft Brexit’, and if May’s deal was tied up with a red rosette it would likely look very similar to what a Labour government would deliver.

May and Corbyn have clashed on Brexit at PMQs for the last few weeks and those debates have not been particularly enlightening. May has given us little but soundbites and Corbyn little but fudge.

It’s not even likely to be a real debate – both party leaders will ignore each other and talk to their respective audiences.

Furthermore, the deal that is to be debated is likely to be dead within a few days after the debate. And it is MPs, not the public watching at home, that will vote on it anyway.

If, as looks likely, the deal is voted down on 11 December, Brexit will be blown wide open, with as many options back on the table as a Christmas spread.

That is the debate the country really needs to have – one that includes all the options. Leave very narrowly won the referendum but after two years we are really none the wiser what kind of Leave people wanted:

1.) Theresa May’s deal?

2.) A different deal with the EU (if they’re willing to negotiate one, which they say they are not)?

3.) No deal and an economically tough Hard Brexit?

4.) Remain in the EU under the current terms?

5.) Or a referendum with a choice between the above options?

For any kind of proper public discussion, all of these options should be under scrutiny, rather than just the first two.

The leaders of the smaller parties were understandably angry that they would not be invited by the broadcasters to take part in the Brexit debate between Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May.

Adam Price of Plaid Cymru called it a “democratic disaster” and Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP “an absolute travesty of democracy”.

But I would suggest that that the way forward is for these party leaders to organise their own debate, alongside the leaders of prominent factions within the Labour and Tory parties.

A debate including Adam Price, Nicola Sturgeon, Arlene Foster, Caroline Lucas, Vince Cable, Boris Johnson and Owen Smith would give every part of the country a voice and all of the different options an airing.

Their exclusion from the Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn debate shouldn’t be seen as an outrage but as an opportunity – a chance to have a proper debate without the fudge and soundbites of PMQs.

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