Rivals clash in TV Brexit debate ahead of Commons showdown
The debate was arranged after efforts to get Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn to go head to head on screen collapsed.
Brexiteers were urged to “take the deal and get out” of the European Union as MPs clashed ahead of Tuesday’s crucial Commons vote.
Tory deputy chairman James Cleverly made the plea in support of Theresa May’s deal, arguing that it delivered on what people voted for.
But he was opposed by arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, Labour shadow cabinet minister Barry Gardiner and Green MP Caroline Lucas as they set out rival visions for the way ahead.
Channel 4’s Real Brexit Debate was aired after rival plans by the BBC and ITV for a televised showdown involving Mrs May and Jeremy Corbyn fell through.
The first audience member to speak called Mrs May’s Brexit deal “treasonous”, while the last quoted “the great philosopher Kylie Minogue” as he called for another referendum, with the reasoning “better the devil you know”.
Mr Cleverly said: “Our deal delivers on what people voted for. It takes back control of our money, our borders, our laws.
“It means we can get on with Brexit and give more time to focus on other important issues like the NHS.”
He added: “The only thing we know for sure is that rejecting this deal means damaging uncertainty and, as a Brexiteer, the thing that worries me the most is the risk we do not leave the EU at all.”
But Brexiteer Mr Rees-Mogg, who opposes the deal, said: “This is all about trust.
“Across Europe politicians are distrusted – there are riots in France and troubles in Italy.
“Everybody agreed to accept the result of the referendum. Now Theresa May has said one thing and come back with a deal that does another.”
Shadow international trade secretary Mr Gardiner said Mrs May had “brought back a deal that even her closest allies think would damage the UK”.
“Labour would negotiate a permanent customs union, a strong single market deal that protects workers’ rights and environmental standards,” he said.
“People voted to leave, but they voted for a better future.”
Ms Lucas said Labour’s position was “fantasy land” and argued: “This decision can’t be left to the politicians, we simply can’t agree.”
She said viewers would be “screaming at the television in despair” at the MPs.
“We are going to have to live with the consequences of this decision for decades to come and it will affect young people most of all,” she said.
“So let’s just be sure: let’s vote on this together as a country, don’t leave it to the Westminster elite to decide for you.”
Mr Rees-Mogg called it a “losers’ vote” and asked: “If you get a second vote and lose that, how long will it be before you ask for the third?”
But Ms Lucas shot back that in 2011 Mr Rees-Mogg had suggested “it might make more sense to have the second referendum after the renegotiation is completed” – comments made in reference to David Cameron’s renegotiation with Brussels.