By Joe Harker
The date for the crucial House of Commons vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal is scheduled for December 11, also known as two weeks from now. The prime minister has a media strategy designed to stir up support for her deal and turn the current situation, one where she lacks the Commons majority to pass her deal, into one where she gets the necessary backing and her MPs fall into line for whatever reasons they may possess.
She has two weeks to sell her deal to the country and one of the ways she plans to do that is in a TV debate against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The Daily Telegraph reports that May wants to scare MPs in constituencies that voted Leave by appealing directly to the public. She recently wrote an open letter asking the public to support her deal, though the response was less than positive.
If all goes to plan for May the British public will pressure their wavering MPs into backing the prime minister, though the deal she has secured is about as popular with the public as an outbreak of the bubonic plague.
Corbyn, who is still trying to make the case for Labour to force the Tories out of government so he can take over Brexit, would "relish" the chance to debate May on leaving the EU. He has agreed to a live televised debate against May and will use the opportunity to poke more holes in her plan while trying to champion his own alternative.
However, while the prime minister has secured a hugely unpopular deal that will make the UK worse off and is liked by almost nobody, Corbyn is trying to make the case for something that may be impossible. His vague promise of a "jobs first" Brexit will not stand up to scrutiny in a debate which could damage the suggestion that Labour could take over from the Tories and do their own version of Brexit.
Just as he will get a prime opportunity to rip apart Theresa May's plan so too will she have the chance to point out that he's asking for something that's likely impossible. The EU don't want to negotiate a new deal and even if Article 50 is extended it doesn't necessarily change that.
Former Labour MP Tom Harris suggested that May is making a mistake by offering a live TV debate on Brexit. While she might be able to pick apart his ideas on Brexit she is also going to have her unpopular deal examined. Whichever way you look at it her offering to the UK is going to leave it in a worse situation.
There's a very strong possibility that neither leader will emerge from the debate with much credit. Both have struggled under scrutiny and fact checking when it comes to Brexit and no amount of research and preparation can undo the fact that the prime minister is trying to sell a deal nobody wants and the leader of the opposition is offering something impossible.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon would like to be included in the debate, as would leaders of the other parties in the House of Commons. Most of the other parties support Remain, whereas Labour and the Tories both back Leave. Sturgeon wants to be part of the discussion though May will likely not want anyone other than Corbyn there. The prime minister will want a debate on the Brexit deal, not on Brexit itself.