Britain’s rejection of military action against Syria will spark a debate about the country’s role in world politics, a leading minister has claimed. But the country’s finance minister George Osborne said claims it would damage the UK’s relationship with the US were “hyperbole”.
In a surprise defeat Prime Minister David Cameron and his coalition government lost a vote that would have authorised military action against Syria.
Osborne told the BBC: “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.”
Asked about Britain’s relationship with the US, he added: “There’s a bit of hyperbole on this in the last 24 hours. The relationship with the United States is a very old one, very deep and operates on many layers.”
The government was defeated by 285 to 272 votes in the House of Commons on Thursday evening.
Cameron said: “It is very clear tonight that while the House has not passed a motion, it is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that and the government will act accordingly.”
The vote came as members of the UN Security Council met to discuss allegations that the Syrian regime had launched a deadly chemical weapons attack in suburbs of Damascus.
The UK had seemed poised to join Washington in possible military strikes in response to the alleged incident.
Washington has said it will decide on its response based on US interests and will continue to consult with the British government in the wake of Thursday’s vote.
UN weapons inspectors are continuing to investigate the chemical weapons claims.They are due to present their findings to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday.
The Syrian regime has denied that it has launched a chemical attack. It is blaming rebels, claiming that they are trying to frame the government.