NEWS
15/04/2018 22:31 BST | Updated 16/04/2018 09:20 BST

Theresa May To Defend Syria Bombing As 'In Britain's National Interest' In Commons Showdown

'Chemical weapons cannot become normalised,' PM to tell MPs.

Theresa May will say military intervention in Syria was in “Britain’s national interest” as she defends the early morning bombing raid in a showdown with MPs in Parliament.

In a highly unusual step for a Prime Minister, May will on Monday apply to Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, for an emergency debate on the joint British, US and French missile strikes that took place on Saturday in response to the chemical attack that killed at least 70 people.

It comes amid reports Conservative MPs were put on a three-line whip to attend Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, suggesting the debate could lead to a vote - which would be non-binding but potentially disastrous for May’s authority.

The Tory leader has faced criticism over not consulting Parliament before agreeing the missile strikes on key chemical and military facilities in Syria.

On Sunday, Jeremy Corbyn called for a ‘war powers act’ to guarantee MPs gets a vote on military action in the future.

He claimed May’s decision was “policy made up by Twitter” and that the Prime Minister had been too keen to “follow Donald Trump’s lead”.

Four RAF jets joined French and American forces over the weekend in attacking the Assad regime over the alleged chemical attack on civilians in the rebel-held town of Douma.

Handout . / Reuters
The US Navy guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey fires a Tomahawk land attack missile on Saturday.

In the Commons on Monday, May will make the statement explaining why she ordered British cruise missile strikes and will then take questions from MPs.

But she will also ask for an emergency debate to allow more time for discussion in a nod to the fury among MPs at not being consulted.

The PM will say the UK acted to avoid further humanitarian suffering in Syria caused by chemical weapons attacks, and point to the strong international backing which the UK and its allies have since received.

She will say: “United Nations Security Council-mandated inspectors have investigated previous attacks and on four occasions decided that the regime was indeed responsible.

“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.

“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.”

She will add: “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.”

She will continue: “We have done it because we believed it was the right thing to do. And we are not alone.

“There is broad based international support for the action we have taken.

“Over the weekend I have spoken to a range of world leaders - including Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Gentiloni, Prime Minister Trudeau, Prime Minister Turnbull and European Council President Donald Tusk.

“All have expressed their support for the actions that Britain, France and America have taken.”

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that he had convinced Trump to keep troops in Syria for the long-term and limit joint strikes to chemical weapons facilities.