Nick Clegg challenges Nigel Farage to debate on EU membership

Nick Clegg LBC laughingOn his weekly Call Clegg phone in programme, Nick Clegg challenged Nigel Farage to a public, open debate on whether Britain should stay in the EU. He said it was time for the leaders of the two parties advocating out and in to discuss the issues. He was clear that membership of the EU protected 3 million British jobs, kept us safer and enabled us to protect the environment.

I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I will challenge Nigel Farage to a public, open debate about whether we should be in or out of the European Union. 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.

It’s a brave, maybe audacious move, but Nick has never been one to shy away from a challenge. He’s also honed his already good debating skills since his success in 2010.

It’ll be interesting to see how the effectively sidelined David Cameron and Ed Miliband will react to this. Nick dismissed them both, saying that the Tories were flirting with leaving but didn’t quite come out and say it, while Labour were dithering.

Nigel Farage will be on LBC tomorrow morning. Will he take Nick up on his challenge?

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Nothing like nailing your colours to the mast, eh? It’s a smart move, but he’ll need some good, solid arguments though, not just generalities like claiming three million jobs would be lost at a stroke, which they would clearly not be.

    He’ll need to be able to debunk loads of Farage’s Euromyths while presenting good, solid examples where working together has produced concrete benefits for UK citizens that wouldn’t otherwise have happened and would be put at risk from a withdrawal. He’ll also need to show how the Lib Dems want to change Europe for the better, rather than pretending everything is fine at the moment, which it isn’t.

    The real problem is the idea of a United States of Europe. The vast majority of people in the UK don’t want that, yet it remains a project dear to many in the rest of Europe. How he deals with that question will be crucial. Can he reassure people that that is not going to happen?

  • Adam Robertson 20th Feb '14 - 11:45am

    I welcome this from Nick Clegg, we should be proud of the fact that we are pro-Europeans. One of the main reasons, why I joined the Liberal Democrats. There has been a lot of groundwork on debunking the myths set by UKIP, like it costs us roughly £10 billion per year, which is true but this only equates to 17p per day for each person. This has especially done in Ceredigion. Maybe Nick Clegg could get some tips from Mark Williams MP and his team.

    This could potentially be a gamechanger for both parties – Lib Dems and UKIP. From being a ‘medium party’, which we are in terms of aiming for Government, we may be giving a renewal, providing the debate goes ahead and Nick has a solid debate. I accept that Nick’s popularity, may be a hinderance but he is not scared to fight for our principals, especially Europe. The question is now, not whether UKIP accept as such, but what will Labour and the Conservatives will do?

  • Max Wilkinson 20th Feb '14 - 12:10pm

    Where will this debate be screened and who might watch/listen?

    If it’s Clegg v Farage on LBC in a weekday morning, I suspect nobody will notice.

  • Max Wilkinson 20th Feb '14 - 12:13pm

    I should add that I’m all in favour of the idea.

  • On the BBC, I see that UKIP are preparing the ground for running away from this one. They are saying that Cameron and Miliband should be invited too; I am not sure why, or at least on present performance I am not sure they would have anything to contribute.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Feb '14 - 1:16pm

    Are we going to put up with three months of pain or is Nick going to calm down on the Europhilia? I love the EU, but we can’t be soft with it.

  • Mark Thompson 20th Feb '14 - 1:30pm

    Adam Robertson according to the polls it is not about the money anymore. I guess Clegg has never seen Farage operate….

  • Mark Thompson 20th Feb '14 - 1:32pm

    How can he offer that debate to Farage and then deny a referendum on the same subject to the British people?

    I think it’s time we now have a proper public debate so the public can listen to the two sides of the argument and judge for themselves.

    And then vote. Because that is what the public will want. And they won’t see an amorphous vote in the European elections as anywhere near enough. Mr Clegg, you have been warned.

  • “On the BBC, I see that UKIP are preparing the ground for running away from this one. They are saying that Cameron and Miliband should be invited too; I am not sure why, or at least on present performance I am not sure they would have anything to contribute.”

    I don’t know about “running away”, but obviously what Farage wants is to participate in the televised debates between party leaders during the next election campaign. Surely it’s not surprising if he’s failing to jump at the chance of a debate with Nick Clegg alone/

  • Chris: of course Farage is running away and no, it it is no great surprise. Nick Clegg is the one leader prepared to put forward a spirited case for the EU. Farage is the one leading the anti EU pack. There is clear logic for a head to head, but it would be a bear trap for Farage.

  • Can’t see this boosting the Lib Dem vote – just the opposite.

  • “of course Farage is running away”

    Well, you seem to have gone from UKIP “preparing the ground for running away” to “of course Farage is running away” in the course of two or three hours, and all before Farage has said whether he will take part. Perhaps we should wait and see what the answer is.

    But the response UKIP has made today is a reminder that people need to be careful what they wish for:
    “If this challenge means that Mr Clegg is going to restore his backing for an in/out referendum, which he gave before the last election but then withdrew afterwards, then it could be a significant moment in British politics.”

  • david Normally, with a half way decent debater on the pro Europe side, they blow the phobes away. Even assuming their participants were good, which they are often not, their arguments are so fundamentally weak, that a limited exposure to scrutiny will wreck them.

  • jedibeeftrix 20th Feb '14 - 6:06pm

    @RC – “The real problem is the idea of a United States of Europe. The vast majority of people in the UK don’t want that, yet it remains a project dear to many in the rest of Europe.”


    how will the lib-dems ensure that euro-outs like Britain and Sweden do not become mere Sanjak’s to a federal eurozone core, much as Greece was under the Ottomans and is again today.

    if he can answer that then the “party of in” may not be a train wreck!

  • A United States of Europe was a phrase much loved by Winston Churchill. I am surprised that the Tea Party Jedi is not drooling over the prospect of such a Churchillian dream and providing a link to an ancient copy of The Telegraph telling us how wise Sir Winston was and how he as such a great inspiration for the Blessed Margaret.

  • jedibeeftrix 20th Feb '14 - 6:34pm

    oh John, surely you know he advocated it for the continent and not for us?

    you do know that, right?


    tea party bob

  • JBT’s question might be answerable if he actually knew what a sanjak was, or had any purpose in using Turkish names for administrative subdivisions other than to raise the spectre of Alien Eastern Foreignness as an emotional red rag.

  • Jason J Hunter 20th Feb '14 - 8:14pm

    Iain Dale: “…and you Jason J Hunter have just articulated the questions that Nigel Farage has so far been unable to answer”

    I wonder if Nick Ferrari will ask any of these when he has Nigel Farage MEP on his show in the morning on LBC radio?

  • jedibeeftrix 20th Feb '14 - 9:25pm

    it may surprise you to know, David, that I am among those who sincerely hope that Turkey will join the EU. I believe they will be a valuable asset in an otherwise moribund economic and geopolitical group.

    that does not detract from the historical enthusiasm the greeks exhibited in trying to throw of the quasi-autonomy they ‘enjoyed’ from their masters in Istanbul.

  • I am interested that the Jedi makes a reference to Tea Party Bob.
    He may or may not know that the last Liberal MP in Newcastle was Sir Robert Aske, known as “Tea party Bob” for his post-election teas. In 1976 I delivered leaflets in the Newcastle Central by election for Andrew Ellis which carried a picture of Tea Party Bob. Robert Aske had remained an MP until 1945 so some of the older voters remembered him as a good bloke. Obsessives might like to check out the result of that by election — we did rather better than in Wythenshawe last week.

    A very different Tea Party from the Jedi’s right wing friends of course.

  • jedibeeftrix 20th Feb '14 - 10:15pm

    I consider myself educated, for i knew nothing of the worthy Sir Robert Aske.

    I do wonder, however, why you spend quite so much time trying to out me as a tea-partier?

    It’s not as if it’s not appreciated hereabouts that I am a bit chalk-n-cheese to the average beard-n-sandles liberal, and I am quite willing to be abrasive enough that no-one should be in any doubt that I am trying to ingratiate myself to the social mores of the group…

    … so why bother?

  • Michael Main 21st Feb '14 - 7:59am

    An excellent idea but having heard Nigel at an after dinner speech, I have to say that he is an pretty good rabble rouser and this approach will appeal to many people whereas Nick will tend to appeal to the intelligensia…..

  • I see Farage has accepted the challenge, saying “I can hardly wait”:

  • John Tilley: I am not surprised that you “did rather better than in Wythenshawe last week”, as I recall Andy Ellis was a canny and vigorous campaigner. Do you know what has become of him?

    Chris: Yes I should have repeated “preparing to run away” above. Apparently Farage has accepted, though I would still be not so sure this means it will go ahead. Unless it is set up to become a shouting match, a debate should expose the vacuity of Farage’s claims. In fact if Farage runs true to form he will spend much time backtracking on previous assertions and policies.

  • “Yes I should have repeated “preparing to run away” above.”

    Evidently not!

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