Jeremy Corbyn accuses Theresa May of bowing to Trump on 'legally questionable' Syria strikes

Posted On: 
14th April 2018

Jeremy Corbyn has accused the Prime Minister of “taking instructions from Washington” after the UK joined US-led airstrikes on Syria overnight.

PA - The Labour leader said the overnight air strikes on Syria were "legally questionable"
Credit: 
PA

The Labour leader spoke out after the Prime Minister insisted she had "no practicable alternative" than to order strikes on Syria's chemical weapons capabilities following an attack on civilians.

Mr Corbyn - who has stopped short of blaming Bashar Al-Assad and his Russian backers for last weekend’s attack - hit out at the Prime Minister, questioning the legality of the airstrikes and saying they “won’t save lives or bring about peace”.

“This legally questionable action risks escalating further, as US defence secretary James Mattis has admitted, an already devastating conflict and therefore makes real accountability for war crimes and use of chemical weapons less, not more likely,” he warned.

“Britain should be playing a leadership role to bring about a ceasefire in the conflict, not taking instructions from Washington and putting British military personnel in harm’s way.”

Mr Corbyn also slammed ministers for launching strikes before giving MPs a say, saying Ms May “should have sought parliamentary approval, not trailed after Donald Trump”.

He added: “The Government should do whatever possible to push Russia and the United States to agree to an independent UN-led investigation of last weekend’s horrific chemical weapons attack so that those responsible can be held to account.”

The Labour leader’s condemnation came as the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon warned that the airstrikes could make the seven-year civil war in Syria worse, and accused Ms May of “complying with Presidential wishes”.

"Air strikes by US and UK forces have not resolved the situation in Syria in the past and I am not persuaded they will do so now," the Scottish First Minister said.

She added: “This action risks not just further escalating the civil war in Syria but also a dangerous escalation of international tensions.  There must be urgent confirmation from the Prime Minister that there will be no further action and no change to the role of UK military in regards to Syria without a full parliamentary debate.

“An international strategy is urgently required to bring peace and stability to the region.  UK foreign policy should be aimed at reaching an international consensus not simply complying with Presidential wishes.”

That view was echoed by Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, who insisted that Ms May should have sought the approval of MPs before following the US into Syria.

“Riding the coattails of an erratic US President is no substitute for a mandate from the House of Commons,” he said.

“The Prime Minister could and should have recalled Parliament this week and sought the approval of MPs before proceeding.”

Mr Cable said his party had been willing to back a “properly planned and justified” intervention in Syria, but he warned today that the decision to move ahead without Parliament “fatally undermines the integrity of this mission”.

The SNP’s Westminster Leader Ian Blackford is meanwhile pushing for an emergency Commons debate on the situation in Syria on Monday, saying it was “not acceptable” that Ms May had “ploughed ahead without any debate or parliamentary discussion”.

But Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson this morning backed Ms May’s decision not to give MPs a vote before taking action, arguing that speed was “essential” in ensuring the airstrikes had an impact.

He told the BBC: “The Prime Minister and Government have to make decisions not only to do what is right in terms of protecting innocent people but also protecting our national security. We have to make those decisions, and quite understandably, Parliament holds government to account for decisions its makes.

“But it is about doing the right thing, it is about actually protecting those innocent people that the Assad regime have so little care for and are quite comfortable in terms of using chemical weapons against them.

“It is just frankly not right and we have to take action to stop that happening in the future and that’s what we did last night.”