The campaign to remain in the European Union has been angered by the BBC’s plans to stage a television debate on the issue live from Wembley Arena, dismissing it as a “bear pit”.
It is understood that the BBC will be asked to alter its plans, with critics arguing that the broadcaster decided to impose its plans for three pre-polling day debates without fully consulting either campaign. The other plans are for a Question Time special about a week before the vote in June and a programme in Glasgow in May.
Sources suggested that the Wembley event, which is planned for 21 June, two days before the referendum, would involve four representatives from both sides. The Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, and Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, are thought to want to square off at a venue that is better known for being home to The X-Factor, while Labour’s Alan Johnson could also fight the corner to stay in the EU.
It is thought that Iain Duncan Smith, the Brexit-supporting Work and Pensions Secretary, might also appear on the Leave side, though it is unclear which Conservative could appear for Remain, given David Cameron’s desire to avoid divisive debates between his MPs.
Voters would be invited to the 12,500 capacity arena to question the campaigns, but it is understood that Remain supporters fear this event could be hijacked by their opponents. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, does not want to appear in any of the television debates.