EU Referendum

EU referendum: Five key moments from the Great Debate

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Media captionSee highlights of BBC's Great Debate

The final live debate of the UK's EU referendum campaign took place at Wembley Arena on Tuesday night. Here are five of the key moments from the BBC showdown.

Representing Leave, Boris Johnson, Labour MP Gisela Stuart and energy minister Andrea Leadsom went head-to-head with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, and general secretary of the Trades Union Congress Frances O'Grady for Remain.

1. The fight over the economy

The first skirmishes were over the economy, with Mr Johnson highlighting the "extraordinary success stories" of UK manufacturing firms such as JCB and Dyson, whose bosses back Leave. Mr Khan, however, claimed Leave's own economic adviser had said Brexit would "eliminate" the industry and leave 2.5m jobs at risk.

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Media captionBoris Johnson and Sadiq Khan clash over the economy

Five key moments from the Great Debate

The former London mayor also faced a blue-on-blue grilling from fellow Tory Ms Davidson, who said it was not good enough that when "asked if people were going to lose jobs, Johnson said they might or they might not". Mr Johnson branded the EU "a job destroyer engine", saying Britain had been unable to protect at-risk steel jobs partly because of EU rules - something his opponents said was "a lie".

Ms Davidson also claimed the EU would impose tariffs and taxes on the UK if it left the EU - a suggestion Mr Johnson deemed "insane".

Meanwhile, Frances O'Grady said leaving the EU would lead to wages being £38 a week lower than they would have been if the UK had stayed in - a claim examined by BBC Reality Check.

2. Immigration and 'project fear'

In a heated clash, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan accused his predecessor Mr Johnson of unleashing not just "project fear" but "project hate" about immigration, which he said brought "huge economic, cultural and social benefits to our country".

Mr Johnson hit back by saying he was "passionately a believer in immigration, but it's got to be controlled" - citing the ONS 2015 EU net migration figure of 184,000.

He also claimed it was Remain that was stirring up fears: "They told us they were going to have a positive and patriotic case, but they are back to project fear within minutes of this debate," he said.

Turkey was also a point of contention, with Mr Khan saying his opponents had been scaremongering with a "big fat lie" over whether Turkey would join the EU.

3. As a mother...

Political debates are known for their repetitive phrases. This one included "take back control", "no plan" and "project fear". But it also had "as a mother", or "as a mother and grandmother" in Gisela Stuart's case.

Some commentators pointed out the contrast with Mr Khan's "as a lawyer".

Others started to play bingo. "Pretty loud 'As a mum' bingo in the spin room. Big cheer for every mention. Andrea Leadsom most recent #BBCDebate #EUref," tweeted the BBC's Kamal Ahmed.

Remain's Ruth Davidson clearly picked up on the pattern. "There are mums and dads on this side of the debate," she interjected.

Some of the audience clearly noticed too. "What do I care if you're a mother? Why have you told me that five times?" tweeted Ciara Walker.

"I'm going to start all my stories "as a mother" from now on. But feeling a bit inadequate that I'm not a grandmother too #BBCDebate" tweeted Pippa Crerar.

BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins wondered about the significance of being a father: "As a Dad I'm pretty sure I wasn't any wiser after becoming a Dad. More tired and short tempered perhaps...".

4. Will we see 'UK independence day'?

The former London mayor got a standing ovation after his closing statement, in which he declared: "Thursday can be our country's independence day".

He said leaving the EU offered "hope" and was on the side of "those who believe in Britain".

"They say we can't do it, we say we can. They say we have no choice but to bow down to Brussels, we say they are woefully underestimating this country and what it can do," he said.

Meanwhile Ms Davidson, who gave the closing statement for Remain, told the audience it had to be "100% sure" because there was "no going back on Friday morning".

"I know the EU isn't perfect but the benefits far outweigh any costs - and the Britain that I know, that I love, works with its friends and neighbours, it doesn't walk away from them," she said.

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Media captionEU Referendum: Davidson and Johnson close Great Debate

5. The rise of Ruth Davidson?

Ms Davidson was hailed by the Remain side as the star of the debate for her impassioned performance.

BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins tweeted: "Big English audience getting first proper taste of Ruth Davidson as quality performer now as plenty did with Sturgeon in the election debate".

But others were more focused on why Mr Johnson told the pro-Remain Scottish Tory that haggis exports could be hampered by EU trade rules.

"Mmm highlight so far still Boris getting confused and yelling HAGGIS at the Scottish woman. #BBCDebate," tweeted English teacher Cheryl Schmidt.


Are you at loggerheads within your family over the EU referendum? BBC Newsnight would like to see your efforts to persuade your nearest and dearest to change their minds! Send a short video of your attempts to us. It should be no longer than two minutes, filmed in landscape, and sent to:

  • WhatsApp: +44 7450 602884
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We need them by 18:00 today and selection of the best videos will be shown on Newsnight tonight.

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