UK parties clash over Brexit in TV debate

Michel Barnier, chief negotiator for the preparation and conduct of the negotiations with the United Kingdom under article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) gives a press conference at the European Commission on December 6, 2016, in Brussels. / AFP / EMMANUEL DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

London, Dec 2 (IANS) Leading figures from the UK’s political parties have clashed on Brexit, the National Health Services (NHS) and terror legislation in the latest televised general election debate, it was reported on Monday.

The participants of iTV’s Election Debate on Sunday included Conservative Minister Rishi Sunak; Labour’s shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon; Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson; Scottish National Party’s (SNP) Nicola Sturgeon; Green party co-leader Sian Berry; Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price; and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, the BBC reported.

On Brexit, Sunak did not give a direct answer when he was pushed to rule out a no-deal Brexit if the Conservatives won the December 12 general election, while Burgon defended Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to remain neutral in the event of a second referendum, saying the Labour leader was “determined to bring the country together and heal divisions, not try to exploit them for votes”.

In response, Swinson said being neutral showed Corbyn was a “bystander not a leader”, but Burgon said her party’s policy of cancelling Brexit was “not very liberal, not very democratic”.

Sturgeon, who also wants another referendum, added it was “dreadful” that the Conservatives want “Brexit at any cost” and Labour “can’t even decide what side they’re on”.

To this, Sunak insisted “we already have a deal”, adding that a trade deal was “in the future”, adding that “we can only get to that future” by respecting the result of the EU referendum and leaving.

While Berry said the best way to finish off the Brexit process was “more democracy” by having a “people’s vote”, Price and Swinson said Brexit should be cancelled altogether, with Farage adding that a second referendum would cause “even more division and acrimony”.

There were also heated exchanges over the the release from prison of Usman Khan, who went on commit the London Bridge terror attack, the BBC reported.

Sunak said the Conservatives wanted “tougher sentences” and defended Prime Minister Boris Johnson against claims he had politicised the attack. To this, Burgon said that it was “very uncomfortable with the way the discussion from the Conservatives moves straight from a tragedy to reheating pre-packaged political lines”

Commenting on the issue, Farage said that “these people should never ever be let out prison unless we are absolutely convinced they do not have the jihadi virus”.

Regarding the NHS, Sunak accused Labour of making “baseless allegations” that the Conservatives would sell the NHS, as part of a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

The UK will go to the polls on December 12.

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