British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused of stoking dangerous divisions over Brexit after angry exchanges dominated the first House of Commons debate since the United Kingdom Supreme Court ruled his five-week prorogation, or suspension of Parliament, unlawful.
A few Conservative members of Parliament, including a Cabinet minister, urged the prime minister to pick his words carefully after he accused his opponents of "surrendering" to the European Union and "sabotaging" his Brexit negotiations.
Parliament remains deadlocked over Brexit, with Johnson intent on leading Britain out of the EU with or without an exit agreement while most lawmakers are determined to block a no-deal scenario, which they fear will cause huge economic disruption.
Johnson had told MPs on Wednesday that the Supreme Court was "wrong to pronounce on a political question at a time of great national controversy", and urged smaller parties to put forward a vote of no confidence in his government to trigger a general election. He also goaded Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn over his refusal to back an election.
The prime minister was repeatedly challenged by opposition MPs over his use of the word "surrender" to describe legislation passed earlier this month that aims to block a no-deal Brexit on Oct 31 if he failed to come up with a new exit deal before Oct 19.
Labour MPs urged Johnson to tone down his language, saying that his words were being cited in death threats, but he dismissed their complaints as "humbug".
Johnson's provocative appearance not only incensed opposition MPs, it alarmed some of his own. He was enthusiastically applauded by the majority of his backbenchers but others sat in stony silence.
He was urged to de-escalate his rhetoric by a member of his own Cabinet－Nicky Morgan, the culture secretary, who said on Twitter: "We all need to remind ourselves of the effect of everything we say on those watching us."
Nicholas Soames, who was expelled from the Tory party for rebelling on Brexit, said that he was in despair and felt "absolutely appalled by the whole language and tone used by the prime minister". He added that he had never seen such poisonous exchanges in 37 years as an MP.
Defending the PM, Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly told BBC Radio's Today program on Thursday that the Brexit debate "generates a huge amount of temper on both sides of the Commons".
"The best thing we can do to calm things down is to get it delivered, get it resolved," he said.
On Thursday morning, Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow said the culture in the Commons had been "toxic".
Speaking at the beginning of the day in the House of Commons, he said passions were inflamed on both sides, the atmosphere had been "worse than any I've known" and urged MPs to "disagree agreeably".
MPs were due to discuss later whether to approve a three-day break for the House of Commons next week while the Conservatives stage their annual party conference, which will start on Sunday.