Johnson says Syria strikes ‘right for the world’ as May prepares to face MPs
Labour has questioned the legality of the air raids carried out in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Theresa May will face MPs over her decision to launch air strikes against Syria as Labour questioned the legality of the bombing raid.
The Prime Minister is expected to face anger in the Commons after launching military action without securing the support of Parliament.
As well as facing MPs’ questions, she will also take the unusual step of calling an urgent debate – although this is expected to fall far short of an explicit vote on the military action demanded by some in the Commons.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson insisted the strikes – co-ordinated with action by the United States and France – were “right for the UK and right for the world”.
The Prime Minister will say the UK joined the United States and France in co-ordinated strikes following the chemical weapons attack in Douma to “alleviate further humanitarian suffering”.
Mr Johnson, speaking at a summit of European Union foreign ministers, stressed it was “not an attempt to change the tide of the war in Syria or to have regime change” and “the Syrian war in many ways will go on in its horrible, miserable way”.
“But it was the world saying that we have had enough of the use of chemical weapons, the erosion of that taboo that has been in place for 100 years has gone too far under Bashar Assad,” he said.
E3/EU coordination: Foreign Ministers @HeikoMaas, @JY_LeDrian, @BorisJohnson and #EU High Representative @FedericaMog coordinate ahead of today’s Foreign Affairs Council. #Iran #Syria #FAC pic.twitter.com/m3WbgsRPqQ— Germany in the EU (@GermanyintheEU) April 16, 2018
But shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti questioned the Government’s justification for the air strikes, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “You can’t use force under international law just to punish Syria for bad behaviour.
“You have to actually be using urgent, necessary and proportionate force. And you have to do it with the will of the world behind you.”
She added: “I think that Parliament should have been recalled before the strike. Some people will suspect that that didn’t happen because of governmental concerns that they couldn’t get the vote in Parliament. And that to me is not a good enough reason.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, writing in The Guardian, said: “The military action at the weekend was legally questionable.
“The Government’s own justification, which relies heavily on the strongly contested doctrine of humanitarian intervention, does not even meet its own tests.
“Without UN authority it was again a matter of the US and British governments arrogating to themselves an authority to act unilaterally which they do not possess.”
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt opposed calls from MPs including Mr Corbyn – who has called for a War Powers Act – to give Parliament greater powers over military interventions.
Ms Mordaunt told Today: “To take a decision on whether something is legally justified, and whether what we are actually intending on doing in terms of targets is appropriate, you would need to know information that could not be shared with every MP.”
She added that it would be a “crazy thing to do” to share information on targets with MPs.
Mrs May will ask for the emergency debate to allow more time for discussion in a nod to the fury among MPs at not being consulted.
“There is broad-based international support for the action we have taken,” she will say.
It comes amid reports that Russia has launched a “dirty tricks” campaign in response to the strikes.
Whitehall sources have confirmed a 20-fold increase in “disinformation” spread by Kremlin-linked social media “bot” accounts since the strikes, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Mr Johnson said the UK has to “take every possible precaution” to prepare for possible revenge cyber attacks on targets such as the NHS and electrical facilities.
When the global rules and standards that keep us safe come under threat – we must take a stand and defend them pic.twitter.com/ToOnKsiHrd— Foreign Office 🇬🇧 (@foreignoffice) April 14, 2018
The Prime Minister will tell MPs on Monday that the strikes were in the national interest because the use of chemical weapons cannot be normalised, including in the UK.
She will say: “Let me be absolutely clear: we have acted because it is in our national interest to do so.
“It is in our national interest to prevent the further use of chemical weapons in Syria – and to uphold and defend the global consensus that these weapons should not be used.
“For we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised – either within Syria, on the streets of the UK or elsewhere.”
The Prime Minister spent Saturday evening speaking to world leaders to explain why Britain had joined forces with France and the US and will insist the three nations are “not alone” in believing it was the “right thing to do”.
Germany, Italy, Canada, Australia and European Council president Donald Tusk have “all expressed their support for the actions that Britain, France and America have taken”, the PM will add.
United Nations Security Council-mandated inspectors have probed previous attacks and decided Assad’s regime was responsible four times, MPs will be told.
“We are confident in our own assessment that the Syrian regime was highly likely responsible for this attack and that its persistent pattern of behaviour meant that it was highly likely to continue using chemical weapons,” Mrs May will add.
“Furthermore, there were clearly attempts to block any proper investigation, as we saw with the Russian veto at the UN earlier in the week.
“And we cannot wait to alleviate further humanitarian suffering caused by chemical weapons attacks.”
Four Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s joined the co-ordinated missile strikes at 2am on Saturday, launching Storm Shadow missiles at a base 15 miles west of Homs.
The United States is preparing to impose sanctions on Russia for “covering up” the actions of the Assad regime.