Boris Johnson: World has had enough of chemical weapons

Catherine Neilan
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The Syrian airstrikes are likely to divide the house down non-party lines. (Source: Getty)

Joint air strikes from the UK, US and France in Syria this weekend were not about regime change, but represented "the world saying we've had enough" of chemical weapons being used on civilians, Boris Johnson has said.

Speaking on his way to a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg today, the frontbencher insisted Friday's intervention was "not an attempt to change the tide of the war in Syria or to have regime change".

"But it was the world saying that we have had enough of the use of chemical weapons, the erosion of that taboo that has been in place for 100 years has gone too far under Bashar al-Assad. It was time that we said no and it was totally, therefore, the right thing to do," the foreign secretary added.

Read more: Legal advice sought by Labour suggests Syrian airstrikes were illegal

Asked why parliament – which is set to debate the strikes, but not vote on them, later today – was not given the opportunity to have its say prior to the action, Johnson said there would be "ample opportunity in Parliament today".

"The Prime Minister will be on her feet this afternoon in the House of Commons. As you know, the speaker is very generous and accommodating to every backbencher who wishes to speak and I’m sure that every MP in parliament will want to have their say," he said.

Theresa May has received widespread support for joining the US and France in targeted air strikes, although Labour has condemned her for acting without international backing, in particular from the UN, although Russia has a veto against any action.

This morning, shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti told the BBC's Today Programme: "There appears to be a dispute between Russia and America over precise mechanism to apportion blame."

She questioned how there was no alternative to "this particular bombardment" when Macron was already on the phone to Trump.

But Labour rebel John Woodcock tweeted: "Listened to the Today Programme. I wish my frontbench would spend even a fraction of the energy on Assad and Russia’s grotesque slaughter of civilians as they are on inventing new reasons to oppose targeted UK intervention to stop it."

This evening's debate is likely to divide the House of Commons down non-party lines, with some members of both sides likely to side with the government while others will join forces with the opposition.

Read more: Johnson: Syria strikes send message chemical weapons not tolerated

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