Syria strikes – live updates: Theresa May denies UK joined military action 'because Donald Trump asked us to'

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Theresa May is addressing MPs on the UK decision to join military action against Syria.

The prime minister denied she had followed Donald Trump’s lead, insisting her decision was based on the UK’s own national interest.

Her statement follows news that chemical weapons investigators are yet to visit the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, amid claims they are being blocked by Russia.

Moscow’s deputy foreign minister said the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons required a UN permit to access the site, having earlier said any delays were due to Saturday’s air strikes. The Kremlin has also denied tampering with the scene.

Ms May has faced criticism from Jeremy Corbyn, who called for a War Powers Act to limit the ability of governments to launch military action without parliament’s approval.

But this morning Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, said the intelligence involved was too sensitive to be seen by all MPs and that it would therefore be “quite wrong” to allow them to vote on using force without seeing “the full picture”.

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Live Updates

13 mins ago
16 mins ago

Liz Kendal is the first Labour MP that has broke with the Labour frontbench, saying that Assad’s use of chemical weapons cannot go unanswered. 
Labour MP Chris Leslie also criticised those who “turn a blind eye” and favour inaction – a thinly veiled criticism of his party leader.
He said: “Pinpointing and degrading Assad’s chemical weapons was necessary and appropriate, and that intervening to save civilians from future gas attacks – while not without risk – was absolutely the right thing to do.

“Would the Prime Minister also agree that a policy of inaction also would have severe consequences, and that those who would turn a blind eye, who would do nothing in pursuit of some moral high ground should also be held accountable – for once – today as well?”

Mrs May replied: “I agree with him. Many people focus on the impact of action but actually inaction would have given a message that these chemical weapons could continue to be used by the Syrian regime and indeed by others with impunity and we cannot allow that to happen.”

Ben Bradshaw, another Labour MP, says Assad and his regime have “lied, and lied again”. But he also urges her to come to Parliament and seek consent for military intervention in future instances. 

29 mins ago

Labour’s former shadow foreign secretary hits out the PM for not consulting Parliament before striking the Syrian regime.
Here’s a clip of the Tory MP Ken Clarke making a similar point earlier:

43 mins ago

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford asks the Prime Minister why Parliament was not recalled when she summoned her emergency Cabinet last week. 
He says he’s glad Corbyn is supporting the SNPs call for a War Powers Act. He says there’s no long-term strategic plan. 

45 mins ago

The senior Conservative MP Ken Clarke says he “fully supports” the government’s actions over the weekend. 
“We can all debate these facts – but it takes a real Prime Minister to face up,” he says. 
He raises concerns, however, about a lack of debate in Parliament over the use of military power against another state. 
“Parliament will hold me to account for the decision that has been taken,” she says.

55 mins ago

Jeremy Corbyn is now responding to May’s statement – he thanks her for advance notice for the airstrikes on Friday evening. 
He says the PM is accountable to this Parliament, not to the whims of the US President. He repeats his call for a War Powers Act, to curtail the power of the executive and force Prime Minister’s to seek approval of any future military action from the House of Commons. 
Corbyn says he believes the action is “legally questionable”. 
“I believe the action was legally questionable, and on Saturday the UN Secretary General said as much, reiterating that all countries must act in line with the UN Charter”
He asks what assessment the PM had made on launching missiles at scientific laboratories close to civilian populations. 
Corbyn also says that evidence does point to the Syrian leader but other groups have used such weapons and the attack should be investigated by inspectors.

1 hour ago

“We cannot go back to a world where the use of chemical weapons becomes normalised,” May says. “I am clear that the way we protect our national interest is by standing up to the global rules and norms that keep us safe”.

1 hour ago

May rejects criticism of her strategy, saying: “We have not done this because President Trump asked us to do so.”
She says there is broad based international support for action, adding that she has had conversations with several world leaders over the weekend to update them on the Syrian strike. 
“This was a deliberately targeted strike,” she says. May claims that some of the intelligence information used could also not be shared with MPs. 

1 hour ago

May is now outlining the various targets around Syria targeted by the UK, the US and France over the weekend. 
OPCW cannot attribute responsibility for attack, in any case Russia is blocking their entry to Douma, says May

1 hour ago

Regrettably we had no choice to conclude that diplomatic action on its own would not work, she says. 
May says the Cabinet considered the advice of the attorney general last week – it was not only morally right, but legally right, she says. 

1 hour ago

Theresa May is now up. She says all indications are that the attack on Douma was a chemical weapons attack. The images of are “haunting”, she says, describing the horrific injuries inflicted on Syrians in the region. Intelligence indicates that regime helicopters were over the region on the evening of the attack.
“No other group could have carried out this attack,” the Prime Minister says. The opposition and Isis simply do not have the capabilities to carry out such an attack.
May says she needed to intervene rapidly to alleviate the humanitarian suffering.

1 hour ago

Theresa May has arrived in the Commons for the Syria statement.

1 hour ago

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that condemnation of events in Syria cannot “become a blank cheque for western governments to engage in ineffective and potentially counterproductive military action”.

She said: “Friday night’s air strikes, launched before any evidence had been presented by chemical weapons inspectors and without the approval of Parliament, are in my view unlikely to take Syria a single step closer to peace and security.

“On the contrary they risk a dangerous escalation of an already horrendous situation.

“Indeed what happened at the weekend in some ways felt more like the latest act in a power play between presidents Trump and Putin than any serious attempt to resolve the conflict in Syria.

“And we know the last time UK foreign policy became subservient to the will of a US president intent on conflict, the result was the the Iraq war. That can never ever be allowed to happen again.”

1 hour ago

The director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has delivered an update to the body’s executive council regarding the investigation into the Douma attack.
The OPCW considered initial reports of a chemical attack “credible”, following preliminary analysis, Ahmet Üzümcü said, and set up an investigative team (FFM) two days afterward.
On 10 April, the OPCW told its Syrian delegation it planned to deploy investigators to Douma “as early as possible”, and received an acknowledgment and request that they attend the same day.
Russia’s ambassador and Syria’s vice foreign minister echoed that request, Mr Üzümcü said.
The same day the UN secretary-general expressed “full support for the work of the OPCW in Syria and promised to provide all assistance we may need”, Mr Üzümcü’s statement said, while the UN’s safety and security department (UNDSS) was closely involved.
It continued: “An advance group of three experts from the FFM arrived in Beirut on Thursday, while the remaining six members joined them on Friday.
“The full team received a security briefing from UNDSS in Beirut on Friday. On Saturday the team proceeded to Damascus, where they
met with officials of the National Authority to work out a plan for the deployment.
“The team has not yet deployed to Douma. The Syrian and the Russian officials who participated in the preparatory meetings in Damascus have informed the FFM team that there were still pending security issues to be worked out before any deployment could take place.
“In the meantime the team was offered by the Syrian authorities that they could interview 22 witnesses who could be brought to Damascus.”
On Monday Russia said that the team’s deployment had been delayed because it did not have a UNDSS permit, and because of Saturday’s air strikes, amid accusations it was blocking access.
The Kremlin has denied it has tampered with the site of the alleged chemical attack.

2 hours ago

More on those proposed US sanctions on Russia, with the White House appearing to contradict Nikki Haley’s words yesterday.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement: “We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future.”

2 hours ago

Over the weekend, a poll for The Independent found less than a third of Britons supported taking military action in Syria.
Asked – in the days leading up to Saturday’s strikes – to what extent they would back “UK forces conducting targeted air or missile strikes on Syrian government military targets”, just 28 per cent of respondents supported them.
Another 36 per cent opposed action, 26 per cent neither opposed nor supported the strikes and 11 per cent did not know.

2 hours ago

As we await Theresa May’s appearance in the Commons, here is a clip of Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, trailing the imposition of new economic sanctions on Russia last night.

3 hours ago

Britain’s envoy to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has said Russian assertions about why a team of inspectors had so far been unable to reach Douma, Syria, were incorrect.
Russian officials have said that the inspectors could not access the area because they had not been cleared by the UN and because of US-led strikes carried out on targets in Syria on Saturday prevented them.
But Ambassador Peter Wilson said at a news conference in The Hague that the UN had cleared the inspectors to go, and they had been unable to reach Douma because Syria and Russia had been unable to guarantee their safety.

3 hours ago

This long read, part of The Independent‘s Forgotten Women series, tells of a Syrian mother’s quest to find her missing son amid the death and destruction afflicting her country.

3 hours ago

Here is our full story on cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt’s comments this morning about giving MPs a vote on military action.
She said it would be “crazy” to hand MPs intelligence such as missile targets ahead of votes on strikes.

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