Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, today accepted a challenge from Nick Clegg to a live debate over Britain’s membership of the European Union.
The Liberal Democrat leader had called for the clash to take place ahead of the European Parliamentary elections in May. Several broadcasters are understood to have already expressed their interest in hosting the confrontation.
Mr Farage’s acceptance will put pressure on David Cameron and Ed Miliband to follow suit.
“I have absolutely no choice,” Mr Farage said in his LBC 97.3 radio phone-in programme. “I’ve got to say ‘yes’ because we need to have a national debate on what I think is the most important issue this country has faced.
“The answer is yes, I will do it with Nick Clegg, but the other two, I’d like to see them there as well.”
Mr Clegg had issued the challenge in an appearance on LBC yesterday. He called Mr Farage to “a public, open debate about whether we should be in or out of the European Union”.
The Deputy Prime Minister said: ”That’s the choice facing the British people.
“He is the leader of the party of out, I am the leader of the party of in. It’s time for a proper public debate so that the public can listen to the arguments and decide for themselves.”
Mr Clegg’s move comes a week after he disclosed a high-risk strategy to go head-to-head with the anti-EU party in the European Parliamentary elections in May.
Writing in The Independent last week, the Deputy Prime Minister said he planned to contrast the Lib Dems’ avowedly pro-European stance as “the party of ‘in’” with Ukip’s commitment to quit the EU.
He argued his party had a “unique selling point” on Europe, claiming many Conservatives want to pull out and that Labour is reluctant to attack Ukip.
Tim Farron, the Lib Dem president, yesterday warned the party faces “fight of our lives” not to lose all of its 12 Euro-MPs in May’s elections.Reuse content