MPs to debate air strikes on Syria, but no meaningful vote in sight
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MPs are set to debate the Syrian air strikes, as Labour calls the decision to call the air strikes 'unlawful'.
The Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to face criticism for bypassing parliament in taking the decision to launch the strikes, and for not recalling parliament, as has become the custom after the 2003 decision to launch the Iraq War.
May, who is making a statement defending her decision to take military action in Syria at the time of publication; has also requested an 'emergency debate' on the matter, although this would be non-binding, and requires the speaker to accept the government's request. Critics of the government's decision, including backbench Conservatives, have argued that this is a way to stop any meaningful vote on the issue.
There are reports that the speaker may instead grant the emergency motion lodged by Labour MP Alison McGovern, although this would still be unlikely to provide any meaningful vote on military involvement in Syria.
This comes on the heels of legal advice obtained today by Labour's Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, has questioned the legality of Saturday's air strikes by the US and UK, with Dapo Akande, a professor of public international law at Oxford University, arguing that the strikes “not appear to meet the tests set out by the government.”
The legal opinion goes on to say that: “The legal position advanced by the government ignores the structure of the international law rules relating to the use of force, in particular, because a customary international law rule does not prevail over the rule in the United Nations charter prohibiting the use of force. To accept the position advocated by the government would be to undermine the supremacy of the UN charter.”
Labour's Shadow Attorney General, Baroness Shami Chakrabarti commented that:
“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 …
The government has not passed the tests it set for itself. I don’t think that the government can demonstrate convincing evidence, and a general acceptance by the international community that they had to act in the way they did a few days ago.
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.”
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