John Bercow made an impassioned defence of MPs in the House of Commons after the PM used a public address to blame the Brexit crisis on parliament.
The Speaker told MPs on Thursday “none of you is a traitor” and “all of you are doing your best” in the wake of the extraordinary lectern address by Theresa May on Wednesday.
The prime minister was branded “toxic”, “arrogant”, ’disgraceful” and “irresponsible” by MPs from across the political spectrum following the televised clip at Downing Street.
“The sole duty of every MP is to do what he or she thinks is right,” Bercow told MPs on Thursday.
It came as No. 10 denied May was aiming to whip up anger at politicians after her public statement, in which she suggested parliament was to blame for the Brexit crisis.
The PM, who is in Brussels seeking a delay to Brexit, said MPs were behind the impasse and were refusing to implement the referendum result, telling the public: “I am on your side”.
MPs accused her of a failure of leadership in the negotiations, but also said they felt she was placing their personal safety at risk.
Labour’s Wes Streeting tweeted that MPs had been “subjected to death threats – some very credible”, adding: “Her speech was incendiary and irresponsible. If any harm comes to any of us, she will have to accept her share of responsibility.”
But when May’s official spokeswoman was asked whether the prime minister had put her colleagues at risk, she said: “I would flatly reject that. There is no evidence to suggest that is the case.”
She added: “It’s three years since the referendum and the public, no matter how they voted, want us to bring this to a conclusion and that is what she was setting out yesterday.”
Bercow later clashed with Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, after Labour MP John Cryer called the PM’s address “contemptuous”.
Bercow targeted Tory MPs who muttered “grow up” in the background, by telling them to “raise the level” and to “have mutual respect”.
Leadsom, who has previously been at loggerheads with Bercow, told the speaker: “May I just say, your response does not raise the level.”
The government wants to hold a third meaningful vote on May’s Brexit deal next week, as ministers face a race against time to get it past parliament.
European Council President Donald Tusk has said the EU may only be willing to grant a Brexit delay if MPs back her agreement.
The Downing Street spokeswoman was also asked about comments made to the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme by foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, describing May as under “extraordinary pressure”.
The spokeswoman said: “This is an incredibly challenging process and the PM has been working tirelessly to deliver what the people voted for, but it is not without its extraordinarily difficult challenges.”