A Brexit TV debate between Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May has been cancelled, with the Labour leader accusing the Prime Minister of ‘running scared’.
It follows a week of arguments about which broadcaster would host the showdown, and what format would be used.
Labour insist Jeremy Corbyn has always been willing to debate the Prime Minister but they object to the nature of the BBC’s proposed programme.
The BBC, which is the Prime Minister’s preferred option, originally proposed a panel with multiple speakers.
But after complaints from the opposition they changed the set-up to include a head to head and a separate panel.
Labour have described the modified set up as a “mish mash, with a lop-sided panel of other politicians and public figures, not a straightforward head to head debate”.
ITV, whose one-on-one format was favoured by Labour, announced it too was abandoning plans for the programme.
A spokeswoman for the broadcaster said: “ITV invited the Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition to appear in an ITV programme this Sunday evening, and we have been clear that it is up to those invited to decide whether they want to accept the invitation.
“ITV is developing its plans for covering the build-up and reaction to the crucial Commons vote next Tuesday, and a range of voices and opinions will be represented on the subject of Brexit in our output.”
The decision means that the only programme currently due to go ahead on Sunday is to be broadcast on Channel 4, which will show The Real Brexit Debate, featuring “four high-profile politicians” reflecting a range of opinions from across politics.
Labour accused Mrs May of “running scared” of debating the opposition leader, the same phrase deployed by Downing Street when the BBC abandoned its plans on Tuesday.
A Labour Party Spokesman said: “Theresa May is once again running scared of debating Jeremy Corbyn, just as she did in the general election. Jeremy Corbyn accepted the Prime Minister’s offer of a debate on Brexit immediately. He said he would relish the opportunity to debate her, and that remains the case.
“Labour believed the head-to-head offer from ITV was the most straight forward format. A head-to-head would give viewers the greatest clarity and allow both speakers to get into detail.
“The Prime Minister has refused to join Jeremy in a head-to-head debate. Her team tried to confuse people with a convoluted format. But the British public will see this for what it is – Theresa May unable to face real scrutiny over her crumbling deal.”