LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn went head-to-head Tuesday night in the first televised debate ahead of the U.K.’s December 12 election.
The two leaders locked horns over Brexit and stuck closely to their top campaign messages in the first set-piece clash of the election, although they also engaged in an argument over Corbyn’s claim that U.S. health companies will have access to the U.K.’s National Health Service in a post-Brexit trade deal.
A snap poll by YouGov revealed the two leaders were almost neck-and-neck in the eyes of the public, with 51 percent of respondants saying Johnson won the debate and 49 percent calling Corbyn the winner.
The result will be a moderate boost for Corbyn, who went into the debate trailing Johnson in the polls, but will not give the Labour leader the kind of game-changing moment he needs to radically change the campaign.
Here are five takeaways from the ITV debate:
1. Brexit ain’t over
Johnson stressed his commitment to leaving the EU by January 31, 2020, after the leaders were asked whether they could reassure the public that Brexit will not drag on forever.
“If you vote for us, we have a deal that is ready to go. Approved by every one of the 635 Conservatives candidates standing at this election,” he said. “As soon as we can get that deal through parliament, as we can in the next few weeks, we can get on with the people’s priorities.”
Corbyn described Johnson’s commitment as “nonsense” and said negotiations for a trade deal with the U.S.