Prime Minister Boris Johnson and opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have clashed over Brexit in the last televised debate before next week’s British election.
Six days before the nation’s second election in less than three years, Friday’s debate was seen as the last chance for Mr Corbyn to squeeze Johnson’s lead in the polls, which mostly point to victory for him.
A snap poll by YouGov found 52 per cent of viewers thought Johnson won the debate.
The pair set a combative tone over how to leave the EU and in their opposing offers for domestic policy – “socialism carried out in a democratic way” from Corbyn or “one-nation Conservatism” that will not “rack up debts” from Johnson.
More than three years after Britain voted to leave the EU, the December 12 election will determine when, how and even whether Brexit happens.
Conservative leader Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn traded blows over Brexit, the NHS and the economy during the the last TV debate showdown before next week's general election
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) December 7, 2019
Mr Johnson ridiculed Mr Corbyn’s support for a new referendum in which Mr Corbyn has said he would remain neutral, while the Labour leader said the prime minister’s pledge to “get Brexit done” actually meant years of trade talks.
“We have ample time to get on and build a new free trade partnership, not just with the EU but with countries around the world,” Mr Johnson said in the BBC television debate.
But Mr Corbyn countered that it would take seven years to negotiate a deal with the US and said business could not live with the uncertainty that Britain might still leave the EU without a deal.
Polls show Mr Johnson’s governing party well ahead of Labour.
In terms of the topics covered at the #BBCdebate, viewers thought Boris Johnson did better on Brexit (62%) security (55%) and government spending (48%), while Jeremy Corbyn did better on the NHS (55%)https://t.co/Br3goxInv9 pic.twitter.com/ScJuqvXdPW
— YouGov (@YouGov) December 6, 2019
Mr Johnson, who renegotiated a new divorce deal with the EU in October, has promised to “get Brexit done”.
It’s a slogan he has repeated constantly to try to win over Labour supporters who backed leaving the bloc and those simply fed up with political haggling over the issue.
Britons voted 52-48 per cent in 2016 for Brexit but parliament has been deadlocked over the way forward.
If Mr Johnson wins the majority he says he needs, Britain will leave by January 31 and then seek to secure a trade deal with the bloc by the end of 2020.
Keen to land a blow, Mr Corbyn doubled down on an earlier attack on Mr Johnson, calling his Brexit promises a fraud and saying his deal would simply be the start of years of “painful negotiations and broken promises”.
The Labour leader waved at him documents, he said showed the divorce deal would lead to customs declarations and security checks between Britain and Northern Ireland, a direct contradiction of Johnson’s statements that it would not create any barriers.
Mr Johnson said the document was “complete nonsense”.
Both were taken to task over accusations of prejudice in their parties and questioned over their approaches to Britain’s much loved public health service and their stance on security, a week after another terror attack.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 6, 2019