John Bercow has defended the European Research Group after BBC presenter James Naughtie claimed they were like France’s National Front.
Mr Naughtie told Today listeners the ERG would be part of the NF or Germany’s AfD but “the carapace of [the Conservative] party keeps them in”.
ERG whip Mark Francois told the Commons that Mr Naughtie’s remarks proved the BBC was “irredeemably biased and Europhiliac.”
He added: “We feel passionately about Brexit as do many members of all corners of this house but that does not mean we belong in the National Front, a despicable organisation that we all condemn.”
Responding to Mr Francois, John Bercow said it was not his role to “stand up” for the ERG, but said the remarks were “uncalled for.”
He added: “I do want to say as far as the right honourable gentleman is concerned, that I have known him for 35 years and there is no way on earth that I could imagine him in the National Front.
“He has very strong views to which some people very strongly object and which other people very strongly support, but to suggest there is some sort of National Front allegiance is quite wrong and in my opinion uncalled for.”
In a statement, Jim Naughtie said it was not his intention to liken the ERG to the National Front.
He added: "I was wrong to say in a live discussion that members of the ERG would be happy in a far right party.
"I was trying to make the point that if our parties fracture in some way after Brexit - on Right and Left - we could see a political landcape emerge that looks more like the rest of Europe than it does at the moment.
"My words were ill-chsen and I'm sorry for any offence caused."