Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is to go head to head with Ukip’s Nigel Farage in two broadcast debates on the European Union in the run-up to the May 22 elections to the European Parliament.
Following negotiations between the parties and broadcasters, a radio debate will take place on LBC on March 26, hosted by Nick Ferrari, and a televised debate on BBC2 on April 2, hosted by David Dimbleby.
The fiercely pro-European Deputy Prime Minister challenged Mr Farage to a debate a fortnight ago, and the announcement of the arrangements came as Mr Clegg used a speech in London to ramp up his attack on the eurosceptic party’s leader.
Mr Clegg said: “I challenged Nigel Farage to a debate because I wanted the British people to see that there is a very real choice at the upcoming European elections: between the Liberal Democrats as the party of ‘In’ and Ukip as the party of ‘Out’.
“I am delighted that it has been confirmed that these debates will now definitely happen.
“I’m relishing the prospect of talking about how the Liberal Democrats are fighting to keep Britain in Europe to protect British jobs while Ukip want to yank us out and threaten our recovery.”
In a speech to the Centre for European Reform think-tank yesterday, Mr Clegg accused Ukip of having “let down” British interests within the EU.
“You would have thought that if your world view was based on the idea that it has been bad for Britain for us to be part of the EU, a party such as the UK Independence Party would have used its berth in the European Parliament to find every possible opportunity to promote reforms that create British jobs, enhance British security and that enhance the British way of life in the European Union,” he said.
“Yet the record shows almost precisely the reverse. Ukip leaders don’t turn up to vote most of the time.
Mr Farage responded: “Nick Clegg has some cheek raising attendance and voting records. Although Nick Clegg... lives in London, between 2010 and 2014 he has voted in Westminster only 22.6 per cent of the time.
“By contrast, I live eight hours away from Strasbourg, lead a national party and have voted 55 per cent of the time in the European Parliament.
“Furthermore, from 2005 to 2010 Nick Clegg’s voting record in Westminster was only 42.5 per cent and for much of that period he was not leader of the Lib Dems.
“And by the way, some of our Ukip MEPs have a very high voting record.”