30 Aug 2013

Cameron loses Syria vote, no UK military intervention

The government’s motion to support military intervention in Syria is defeated by 285 to 272 votes – a seismic moment for David Cameron’s leadership and Britain’s role in the world.

The motion was defeated 285 to 272, a majority of 13 votes.

Shortly afterwards David Cameron said it was clear parliament does not want action and “the government will act accordingly”.

The shock outcome of Thursday’s vote – which followed eight hours of parliamentary debate – effectively rules out British involvement in any US-led strikes against President Assad‘s regime.

Labour saw its own amendment, calling for “compelling” evidence, rejected by MPs by 114 votes.

It was cavalier and reckless leadership that was taking Britain potentially into war without going through the United Nations – Ed Miliband

MPs then rejected the government’s motion in support of military action in Syria – even if it is supported by evidence from United Nations weapons inspectors that chemical weapons have been used against civilians.

Thirty Tory rebels as well as nine Liberal Democrats joined with Labour to inflict the defeat on the prime minister in what was a highly unusual reversal of an important matter of foreign policy.

The prime minister said “I get that” the British public does not support action.

Read Gary Gibbon's blog: Mighty blow to Cameron with defeat on Syria

MPs had been recalled early from summer recess to debate and vote, after an escalation of the Syria crisis on 21 August which saw hundreds of people die after a suspected chemical weapons attack.

Following the vote, Ed Miliband said: “Military intervention is now off the agenda for Britain. There would have been nothing worse than intervention without full international support.”

He added: “It was cavalier and reckless leadership that was taking Britain potentially into war without going through the United Nations, without putting the evidence properly before the British parliament.”

Liberal Democrat Sir Menzies Campbell said it was an “unprecented” defeat for Mr Cameron, adding: “This has never happened to a prime minister and government before… on this kind of issue.”

Syria attack: ‘no certainty’

Mr Cameron had conceded there could be no “100 per cent certainty” about who committed the attack as he appealed for support after recalling parliament from its summer break to discuss the crisis.

But he said the shocking video evidence convinced him “beyond doubt” the regime was responsible, he said, warning the biggest danger to Syria was for the world to “stand back and do nothing”, encouraging more attacks.

Mr Miliband’s decision to oppose the motion despite the concession, caused deep anger within the government. During the debate, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond accused him of giving “succour” to Syria’s President Bashar Assad.

The result will dismay allies across the Atilantic in Washington and elsewhere, as it rules out a UK-backed coalition of support for air strikes.

In a statement from the White House, US officials said: “The US will continue to consult the UK, a friend and ally.

“President Obama will do what is in the US national interest and in the interests of the Syrian people.”