Defence secretary Michael Fallon beefs up argument for air strikes in Syria saying UK is already a target

James Nickerson
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Fallon said there is an "urgent need" for Britain to join the fight in Syria (Source: Getty)

Ahead of the one-day House of Commons debate on where the UK should its allies in bombing the so-called Islamic State in Syria, defence secretary Michael Fallon has warned that IS is "a very real threat to us here in Britain".

Speaking to MPs on the defence select committee, Fallon said the UK is "already a target and we are already in this fight", warding off criticism from opponents who say that further military intervention will increase the likelihood of an attack in the UK.

He added that there is an "urgent need" for the UK to join the fight against IS in Syria, "for our own security and to provide vital support for our allies", of which France had made "direct requests" for assistance.

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Fallon added:

Air strikes alone cannot defeat Isil. But they can degrade Isil. They can prevent Isil expanding further in Syria and relieve the pressure on opposition forces that are being attacked by Isil and they there can enhance the prospect of political negotiations that are now under way from leading to a new and more secure Syrian state.

And most importantly, by putting greater pressure on Isl in its heartland of Raqqa and north-eastern Syria, we can reduce its ability to launch international attacks against the United Kingdom and others, thus making us safer.

The statement comes after Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday announced there would be a one-day debate in parliament, which would be followed by a vote, leading some to speculate that air strikes against Syria could start as early as this week.

Read more: Sturgeon "prepared to listen" to case for air strikes in Syria

The Prime Minister has said there is growing support among MPs for action, while Labour has been divided on the issue.

Shadow defence secretary Hilary Benn is in favour of the strikes, but Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is opposed, with both scheduled to make opposing cases from the dispatch box tomorrow. Labour MPs were given a free vote by Corbyn yesterday.

Meanwhile, the motion that MPs will debate tomorrow will make it clear that air strikes are part of a wider strategy, Cameron ha said.

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