Question Time debate: Five moments from the election leaders’ special

On Friday night, four party leaders – Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, Conservative Boris Johnson, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and the Lib Dems’ Jo Swinson – faced members of the public in a Question Time leaders’ special from Sheffield.

Here are five key moments from the programme.

1. Corbyn confirmed he’ll be ‘neutral’ on Brexit

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During an ITV debate on Tuesday, the audience laughed when Mr Corbyn avoided saying whether he would back Leave or Remain in a future Brexit referendum. But in Sheffield, we got more clarity when he confirmed he would adopt a “neutral stance” in a fresh vote on the UK’s membership of the EU.

This had been hinted at in the past, but it appears to be the first time Mr Corbyn himself has confirmed it.

One audience member argued that Harold Wilson – Labour prime minister in the 1960s and ’70s – had also held a neutral stance in the 1975 referendum on Europe. This was later corrected by the host Fiona Bruce, who said Mr Wilson supported staying in the Common Market – as it was then – but took a back seat during the campaign.

If elected, Labour is promising to renegotiate a new Brexit deal within three months, based on close alignment with the EU. That deal would be put to the public in a legally-binding referendum alongside the option to remain in the EU.

2. Johnson was put under pressure over Russia report

One determined audience member sought to get an answer from Prime Minister Boris Johnson over why a report into Russian interference in UK democracy had not yet been published. The PM insisted there was “absolutely no evidence to show any interference in any British electoral event”.

He argued there was no reason to change the “normal timetable” of publication for the report. The audience member hit back: “If that’s the case, why not release it?”

The timing of a parliamentary report’s publication is not usually a something to bother the national consciousness. But members of the public have been raising this issue with the prime minister. He was asked about it during a phone-in on BBC Radio 5 Live and, more recently, a visit to a Teesside engineering company.

On Friday night, Mr Johnson dismissed suggestions he was trying to suppress the report’s findings, as “Bermuda Triangle stuff”.

The audience member was left unsatisfied and continued trying to question the prime minister, until Ms Bruce moved the questioning on.

3. Sturgeon dared Corbyn on his Scottish referendum stance

If this election ends up with (another) hung Parliament, Labour could turn to the SNP in order to form a government.

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