Theresa May acknowledges frustrations of MPs after Brexit speech backlash
Theresa May has acknowledged MPs have a difficult and frustrating job dealing with Brexit after she provoked a furious backlash by blaming Parliament for delays in EU withdrawal.
The Prime Minister stopped short of apologising for the tone of her televised address from Downing Street on Wednesday but moved to try to stem criticism.
Referring to the TV speech, Mrs May said: “I expressed my frustrations and I know that MPs are frustrated too – they have difficult jobs to do.
“I hope we can all agree that we are now at the moment of decision and I will make every effort to make sure we can leave with a deal and move our country forward.”
The PM added: “There are passionately held views on all sides.
“I am very grateful to those MPs who have supported the deal, to those who have come around to support the deal and to all those MPs I have been meeting across the House.”
Mrs May’s attempt at a more conciliatory stance came after Parliamentarians from all sides lined up to condemn the PM’s Downing Street remarks, warning that they had put them in danger of physical attack by angry members of the public.
Anna Soubry, the pro-Remain MP who now sits as an independent, said she was unable to travel home this weekend after receiving “very, very serious” death threats.
Senior backbenchers said the PM’s broadcast meant it would be even more difficult for her to get her Brexit deal through the Commons when it returns next week.
Downing Street defended the remarks saying they had been intended as a “message to the public” to explain why she was now seeking a delay to Britain’s withdrawal date.
Asked about claims that they had jeopardised MPs’ personal safety, a No 10 spokeswoman said: “I flatly reject that.”
However, Ms Soubry, who has previously been a target for pro-Brexit protesters, said: “I’m not able to go home this weekend, I am not safe.
“When a senior police officer tells your partner that if it was his wife in the situation that I am in, he would say ‘I am frightened for her safety’, I think that tells you everything.”
Her comments came after the Commons Deputy Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle emailed MPs on Wednesday – before Mrs May’s address – advising them to travel by taxi or with colleagues amid heightened tensions in the run-up to next week’s votes.
Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle said three men had to intervene on Thursday when an assailant tried to attack him, grabbing at his glasses after shouting that politicians were “traitors”.
Mr Russell-Moyle blamed the Prime Minister for having “whipped up fear and division with her speech last night”, while Labour frontbencher Angela Rayner said the incident in Brighton was “terribly worrying”.
In the Commons, Labour MP Paula Sheriff said she had contacted the Prime Minister last week urging her to “dial down the hate” after being told her head “should be chopped off”.
Fellow Labour backbencher Diana Johnson said she had received messages calling her a traitor and saying that she and two other Hull MPs “should be shot and hanged”.
It prompted speaker John Bercow to intervene, saying: “None of you is a traitor. All of you are doing your best.”
In her address, Mrs May said the public “have had enough” with the failure of Parliament to deliver on the 2016 referendum vote, adding: “I am on your side.”
Former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said her attack on MPs was “terribly misjudged” at a time she was seeking to build support in the Commons for her deal.