Johnson and Corbyn clash over Brexit in BBC debate

Johnson and Corbyn clash over Brexit in BBC debate
Covid-19
07.12.2019
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Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn clashed over Brexit in the final head-to-head debate before the 12 December election.

During the live debate, Mr Corbyn said Labour would bring Brexit “to an end” by negotiating a new deal and putting it back to the public in a referendum, alongside a Remain option.

Johnson said he had “a wonderful deal”, and would use it to take the UK out of the EU on 31 January.

Other topics covered included the NHS, security and Northern Ireland.

Early on in the debate – hosted by Today presenter Nick Robinson – the Labour leader said he would negotiate a new withdrawal agreement with the EU within three months before putting it to a final say referendum – alongside Remain – within six months.

The prime minister countered by saying he already had a withdrawal agreement in place, and would use it to leave the EU next month if he won a working majority in Parliament.

But Nick Robinson challenged Johnson, pointing out that while he had a withdrawal deal in place, he did not have a trade deal with the EU, and so could not rule out a no-deal exit in January 2021.

Coming into the event, Labour and the Conservatives had spent the day arguing over how Johnson’s Brexit deal might affect Northern Ireland.

Labour said a leaked document showed  Johnson’s agreement would have a “devastating” impact on Northern Ireland.

When the subject arose in the debate, Corbyn said of his rival: “He spoke at a DUP conference and said there would be no [trade] restrictions [after Brexit] whatsoever, we now know there are restrictions.”

Mr Johnson was met with applause from the audience when he said he found it “slightly curious” to be lectured about the union by Corbyn, referring to the Labour leader’s past support for those who want to see a united Ireland.

Like Brexit, the NHS has featured heavily in the campaign so far – and Friday’s debate was no different.

Faith, a student nurse in the audience, asked how each leader would deal with a shortage of NHS nurses.

The Conservative leader said a government run by him would “encourage nurses overseas to come” to the UK “by shortening the time for their visa applications” and by reintroducing bursaries for training.

Corbyn described the NHS as at “breaking point”, adding that, under a Labour government, “£40bn in total would go into the NHS in order to fund it properly”.

The Labour leader also repeated one of his main attack lines of the campaign – that a Tory government would allow the NHS to form part of a future trade deal with the US.

However, Johnson described that claim as “Bermuda Triangle stuff”.

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