Is there any point in having a televised debate over Theresa May’s Brexit deal?
Mo Lovatt, lecturer in Cultural and Creative Industries and co-chair of The Great Debate, says YES.
The message coming out of the Prime Minister’s office this week is that “people are bored with Brexit”, so it’s time to #BackTheBrexitDeal.
The strategy is a cynical attempt by Number 10 to reach over the heads of divided parliamentarians, in a direct appeal to the electorate, because people – it is calculated – are so fed-up that they’ll accept the deal.
But Theresa May has misjudged the public mood. If there is one thing that people are still passionate about, it’s Brexit. We’ve spent hours in pubs, lecture halls, on social media, arguing our case. We’ve fallen out with friends, colleagues, and family members. In my lifetime, nothing has impassioned the electorate more.
So, May must face the electorate in a televised debate. Putting her case to the people is absolutely the right decision. The question is, will she listen to their response? We could prove a more formidable opponent than this tin-eared Prime Minister bargained for.
Alex Deane, a Conservative commentator, says NO.
Think about it. The side debating against Theresa May’s deal (presumably headlined by Jeremy Corbyn) would be able to pepper their argument with criticism from each of the opposing perspectives: ranging from continuity remoaning to headbanging that this is not Brexit enough. Like primal screaming or public emesis, it might feel good to the person doing it, but it yields little by way of enlightenment.
Contrariwise, whoever takes the Prime Minister’s position (presumably Amber Rudd, if last time was anything to go by) will Geoffrey Boycott the whole thing out, making the arguments we have heard already.
A real debate would be between the sovereign perspective that sees Britain leaving the bloc, and the increasingly integrationist EU views of Donald Tusk and co. That would provide some genuinely helpful insight into the nature of the club we are leaving. But we’re not going to get it. I was an enthusiastic student debater and enjoy public discourse, but I fail to see what we gain from a debate on the Brexit deal.