Mrs May, who has a fortnight to sell her Brexit divorce deal to a highly sceptical House of Commons before a vote on December 11, today threw down the gauntlet to the Labour leader, a challenge which Mr Corbyn has accepted. The debate is likely to take place on December 9, which the precise format to be decided by broadcasters – but the news immediately prompted demands from other parties and anti-Brexit groups to be included. Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has demanded to be included in any debate as have leaders of Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties.
Now Mr Johnson, a long-term advocate of leaving the EU who resigned from the cabinet two days after the Chequers meeting at which Mrs May’s strategy was thrashed out earlier this year, has given strong indications that he would like to join them
He tweeted earlier today: “Debates are great for democracy – but rather than widening discourse, this debate is narrowing it by offering a false choice between May’s failing deal and Corbyn’s vague proposals – neither of which are Brexit.
“There is no point having a debate with two people who voted Remain & deals that don’t take back control.
“Any debate must involve someone who believes in Brexit & the British people being fully in control of their laws, rather than giving back control to the EU like the PM’s deal.”
Mr Johnson’s post caused a spokesman for Brexit Express to remark: “Boris Johnson has always been the heart and soul of Brexit, and in Tory grassroots terms is rock and roll. See the audience at conference or a Telegraph event and it really is like Elvis is back in the building.
“Truth is he has long been Brexit’s most effective evangelist in that he reaches people.
“The debate requires spark and genuine banner carrying. Compare and contrast to a Remainer pretending to be a Leaver(May) and a Leaver pretending to be a Remainer (Corbyn).”
However, his post also triggered a large number of replies on social media, many of them questioning his motives.
Jane O’Brien responded: “Theresa May should debate against a proper Brexiteer and not someone who, after being a eurosceptic for most of his public life, threw out his beliefs and principle just to appease his bourgeois London-centric party.”
Property Spotter said: “There’s a funny old mechanism in the Conservative party called a leadership election if you think you can handle the responsibility…”
However, John Porter SOVEREIGN backed the idea, saying: “It will not be a meaningful debate without a brexiteer (yourself or JRM spring to mind) and a ‘Peoples Voter’ (Soubry springs to mind).
“Won’t achieve anything of course, but it will be more fun than watching a PMQs rerun.”
Mrs May was accused of ducking a confrontation with Mr Corbyn prior to the 2017 general election, sending Home Secretary Amber Rudd to take part in a televised debate instead.
Speaking to The Sun, she said: “I am going to be explaining why I think this deal is the right deal for the UK – and yes, I am ready to debate it with Jeremy Corbyn.
“Because I have got a plan. He hasn’t got a plan.”
A Labour spokesman said: “Jeremy Corbyn would relish a head to head debate with Theresa May about her botched Brexit deal and the future of our country.”
EU leaders approved Mrs May’s draft withdrawal agreement at a summit at the weekend in Brussels.
However, getting her plans through Parliament looks an altogether more difficult proposition.
Mrs May’s task was made even more difficult after US President Donald Trump said her proposals “sounded like a good deal for the European Union”.