Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage to clash in head-to-head TV and radio debates

Lib Dem leader confirmed he will face his Ukip counterpart, with David Dimbleby booked to host one-off BBC programme

Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage are set to resume their ongoing political battle live on TV, after plans were confirmed for two head-to-head debates broadcast in the run-up to the European elections.

The Liberal Democrat and Ukip leaders will argue two polar opposite positions on BBC Two and the radio station LBC – the former in favour of staying in the EU and the latter campaigning for a move away.

Their rivalry has already started to get personal, with Mr Clegg set to give a speech today in which he is expected to accuse the eurosceptic MEP of pocketing his Brussels salary without bothering to turn up to vote.

Mr Farage has hit back by accusing the deputy Prime Minister of only taking part in less than a quarter of all Westminster votes – despite living in London.

The Lib Dem leader has been pushing for a very public debate between the pair over Europe for two weeks, and officially confirmed two dates today.

He 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.”

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 today, Mr 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 taxpayer-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.”

Mr Farage responded: “Nick Clegg has some cheek raising attendance and voting records. Although Nick Clegg himself though he 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. Can you please explain the criticism, Mr Clegg?”

Following negotiations between the parties and broadcasters, a radio debate will take place on LBC on 26 March, hosted by Nick Ferrari, and a televised debate on BBC Two on 2 April, hosted by David Dimbleby.

They come in the run-up to the 22 May elections to the European Parliament.

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