DUNCAN BARKES: A golden opportunity to clear the Euro-fog

Finally the people of this country will get to hear a proper, no-holds-barred debate about whether the UK is better off in or out of the EU.

The two big beasts scrapping it out will be UKIP leader Nigel Farage and deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. But who will win this verbal dust-up?

The first of these leaders’ debates will be on Wednesday, March 26 at 7pm and can be heard on LBC, the national commercial news talk radio station available on DAB digital radio across the UK. It is a long time in coming.

For years we have had Clegg and his Europhile chums claim that Britain’s future relies on the EU.

At one point Clegg was all for us joining the Euro, although he now admits that in hindsight this would have been a grave mistake.

Europhiles can often be heard throwing around ‘facts’ like the millions of jobs that would be lost if we were to quit the EU.

This scaremongering is enough to make a man swear undying allegiance to Brussels, but is it really this simple?

We need to hear both sides of the argument, backed up with proper analysis.

The fog that surrounds staying in or getting out of the EU is a pea-souper. UKIP has made it its lifetime mission to campaign for withdrawal, but the Clegg versus Farage debate means it must up its game.

Farage is an ace performer and has the common touch.

He has mastered the art of telling many what they want to hear, and the EU serves as a great bogeyman (and in many cases this stance can be justified), but he will need more than just rhetoric to win this debate.

The Lib Dems have played a blinder in challenging Farage like this.

With the European Elections due on May 22, they are turning the vote into a straight in/out choice: vote Libs to stay in, UKIP to get out.

It is a gamble, but what have the Lib Dems really got to lose?

Played well, it could re-energise a flagging political party.

The Lib Dem leader knows his stuff and served as an MEP before becoming an MP.

Clegg did well in the leadership debates around the 2010 General Election and received a boost in the polls due to his performances.

He does his homework and was coached extensively.

He will no doubt do the same this time.

Farage needs to do exactly the same and not rely on bluster, thundering or hectoring.

This is a golden opportunity to win the intellectual argument on EU withdrawal. He cannot afford to blow it.