Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn look unlikely to face-off in a televised Brexit debate ahead of Tuesday’s crucial Commons vote after ITV announced it had scrapped its plan to broadcast it.
The commercial network withdrew after Labour and the Conservatives had spent days rowing over whether to accept its offer of a head-to-head or accept a rival bid from the BBC.
The BBC, which was favoured by Number 10, had already pulled out of the running to host a Sunday night programme featuring other voices as well as the two party leaders.
On Thursday 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.
A Labour Party spokeswoman 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 straightforward 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.”