Clegg challenges Farage to debate

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Nick Clegg has challenged Ukip leader Nigel Farage to a public head-to-head debate over whether Britain should remain in the European Union.

The Deputy Prime Minister said he was “very happy and very keen” directly to pit the Liberal Democrats’ strong support of UK membership against Ukip’s desire to withdraw. He threw down the gauntlet as the Lib Dems brace for what the party president predicts will be “the fight of our lives” in elections to the European Parliament on May 22.

Tim Farron has warned that the party’s “very presence in the European Parliament could be at stake” as it contends with poor opinion poll ratings that put the coalition party behind Ukip.

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I will challenge Nigel Farage to a public, open debate about whether we should be in or out of the European Union,” Mr Clegg declared during his weekly LBC 97.3 radio phone-in. “He is the leader of the party of out, I am the leader of the party of in. And I think It’s now time we have a proper public debate so that the public can listen to the two sides of the argument.”