POLITICS

Nigel Farage And Nick Clegg Announce TV And Radio European Union Debate Dates

05/03/2014 09:52 GMT | Updated 05/03/2014 09:59 GMT
PA

Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg will go head-to-head in two debates on the European Union, one on the radio and one on television.

The Lib Dem leader challenged his Ukip foe to debate Britain's place in Europe last month. This morning it was revealed that the first will be held on LBC radio and the second will be he hosted by the BBC - both will be held in front of live studio audiences.

The BBC debate will be held on Wednesday 2 April at 7pm and be hosted by Question Time presenter David Dimbleby. The LBC debate will be held a week earlier, on Wednesday 26 March at 7pm, hosted by Nick Ferrari.

The BBC said their debate would take place in front of an audience "selected by a reputable polling organisation to be demographically representative and with an equal number of people for and against British membership of the EU". Questions will come from the audience members.

James Harding, Director of BBC News and Current Affairs, said: "We are delighted to have negotiated successfully to broadcast this important debate. Europe is always a highly charged issue in British politics and this is a fantastic opportunity to test the arguments."

Director of Broadcasting for Global, LBC's parent company, Richard Park said: "It was on his LBC show that the Deputy Prime Minister challenged Nigel Farage to a live debate on Europe, so we are proud that both leaders have chosen LBC as the first national broadcaster to host this landmark occasion in UK politics.

"LBC stands for Leading Britain's Conversation, and this event illustrates how the station is at the cutting edge of national debate."

The details were announced as Clegg is ramped up his attack on Farage, accusing him of pocketing his MEP's salary but not bothering to vote.

In a speech to the Centre for European Reform think-tank today, the deputy prime minister will hit out at the "myths" being peddled by "isolationists".

He will argue that seeing the benefits of the EU does not mean you have to be blind to its faults - calling for the "wasteful" second parliament in Strasbourg to be binned and for more progress developing the single market.

"Where the EU has become intrusive, it needs to be pushed back," he will say. "We want to keep the UK opted out of rules we believe are damaging, like the 48-hour cap on the working week in the Working Time Directive.

"Working with our allies, the UK is already taking action to cut excessive EU red tape, saving thousands of pounds for thousands of small business across Britain."

Turning to Farage, Clegg is due to say: "Nigel Farage and deputy leader Paul Nuttall rarely turn up to vote in the European Parliament, despite being happy to take their tax-payer-funded salaries.

"Ukip MEPs refuse to roll up their sleeves and get down to work. Nigel Farage hasn't tabled a single amendment to EU legislation since July 2009."

He said Farage and his colleagues were "failing to stand up for" issues that would help Britain - pointing out that they had abstained on the EU-US trade agreement and voted against mobile phone roaming regulations that cut costs for holidaymakers.

Farage said Ukip's policy of engaging "sufficiently" with the EU to provoke debate had proved successful - and claimed his voting record was more than twice as good as Mr Clegg's at Westminster.

"Our objective as MEPs is not to keep voting endlessly for more EU legislation and to take power away from Westminster," he told BBC Radio 4's Today.

"Our view in 15 years has been that we engage sufficiently here and we use that information to get a debate going back in the United Kingdom.

"It seems to me, given the debate we are now having on the European Union, that the Ukip policy has been pretty successful."

Defending his and Nuttall's record, he said: "Both our voting records are about 50% but we are leader and deputy leader of a national party in the United Kingdom.

"Nick Clegg himself, who actually lives in London, has only himself voted in 22% of votes in this Parliament. I am the president of a group in the European Parliament. We have put down hundreds of amendments since 2009 so factually Nick Clegg is quite wrong."

He said: "I am sorry Mr Clegg, but I don't think more legislation, more power to the institutions of Brussels, is good for British jobs or good for the British economy. I think we would be far better off making our own laws."