It’s on: Farage accepts Clegg’s invitation for public debate on EU

Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage will go head-to-head in a public debate on Britain's relationship of the EU, it has been confirmed.

The Ukip leader confirmed this morning that he would accept the deputy prime minster's offer of a debate, even if, as expected, Ed Miliband and David Cameron do not take part.

"I nearly choked on my bacon roll when I heard Clegg wanted to have a debate on an EU referendum," Farage said.

"He's all over the place.

"I thought about this overnight. At no point in the 15 years I've been an MEP have we ever had a full national debate about merits of EU membership.

"So when the deputy prime minster says he wants to debate me on this issue, I have absolutely no choice. I've got to say yes."

A spokesman for Clegg said: "It's great news that Nigel Farage has accepted the deputy prime minster's challenge. It’s going to be a lively debate and Nick is looking forward to it.

"Both sides will now get together to discuss how we can make this happen."

The decision to accept the invitation comes after 24 hours of soul-searching by Ukip, which initially seemed as if it might turn down the offer from the prime minister.

Farage was criticised for a rare press relations misstep yesterday when he pushed for more details about whether Miliband and Cameron would be taking part rather than accepting the invitation immediately.

A Ukip spokesman said: "Mr Farage would like to thank Mr Clegg for his kind invitation to a debate on the great issue of Britain's membership of the European Union.

"Perhaps he could also let us know whether he has invited David Cameron and Ed Miliband too in order that the British people can see all their main political leaders argue their positions."

Lib Dem sources were scornful of the response.

"This is a simple idea: a debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage," a spokesperson said.

"There's really not very much point debating the other two – neither of them have a clear position."

It is not the first time Clegg has invited the Ukip leader in to a high profile debate.

He has already stated that Farage should be able to take part in the TV debate between the three mainstream party leaders in 2015, despite the fact that the party does not have a single Westminster seat.

Cameron would be hugely resistant to such a move, which would bolster Ukip support at election time, mostly – but not exclusively – at the expense of the Tories.