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‘Britain must start soul-searching about its role in the world’: George Osborne in stark warning about impact of defeat over Syria

Britain must undertake ‘national soul-searching’ about its place in the world after MPs refused to support military intervention against the use of chemical weapons, George Osborne warned today.

The Chancellor said the ‘horrific’ conflict in Syria had raised serious questions about the UK’s involvement across the Middle East.

But he cautioned against allowing the anti-war sentiment which emerged in the wake of the Iraq conflict a decade ago to mean the nation ‘turns our back on the world’s problems’.

In an extraordinary assault on David Cameron’s authority, 39 coalition MPs joined Labour in voting against a watered-down Government motion supporting the ‘principle’ of military action.

There were shouts of ‘resign’ from the Labour benches as the result – 285 votes to 272 – was announced to a shocked House of Commons.

The result triggered warnings about the US-UK special relationship amid claims that Britain has been left a ‘hugely diminished country’.

It came as the Foreign Office issued new warnings against all but essential travel to Lebanon as a result of ‘a heightened risk of anti-Western sentiment in certain countries linked to the possibility of military action in Syria’.

The last time a Prime Minister was defeated over an issue of war and peace was in 1782.

Mr Cameron, who had made a passionate plea for support over proposals for targeted strikes on Damascus after a chemical weapons attack last week, was forced to issue a humiliating climbdown.

‘It is clear to me the British Parliament does not want to see British military action. I get that and the Government will act accordingly,’ he told MPs.

 

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His decision to pledge to stand shoulder to shoulder with the US in a planned attack on Syria, and to recall Parliament from its summer recess for an emergency debate, backfired spectacularly.

Chancellor Mr Osborne tried to play down the significance of the result, insisting Tory and Lib Dem rebels who defeated the government had ‘sincerely held views’.

But he today raised concern that the UK’s place in the world would be undermined by the vote.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think there will be a national soul-searching about our role in the world and whether Britain wants to play a big part in upholding the international system, be that big open and trading nation that I’d like us to be or whether we turn our back on that.

‘I understand the deep scepticism that my colleagues in Parliament many members of the public have about British involvement in Syria.

‘I hope this doesn’t become the moment where we turn our back on the world’s problems.’

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Chastened: Prime Minister David Cameron faced calls to 'resign' in the Commons as MPs voted by 272 votes to 285 to reject his motion backing British intervention in principleChastened: British MPs voted by 272 votes to 285 to reject Prime Minister David Cameron’s motion backing British intervention in principle

 
Blast: People inspect the damage at a site hit by what activists say was a car bomb in Raqqa province, SyriaBlast: People inspect the damage at a site hit by what activists say was a car bomb in Raqqa province, Syria

 




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