Aug 30 2013
David Cameron's defeat over UK involvement in military action against Syria will lead to "national soul-searching" about the country's role in the world, Chancellor George Osborne has admitted.
The Prime Minister was forced to rule out the use of British forces in any action against Bashar Assad's regime after a humiliating vote in the Commons which saw 30 Tory rebels as well as nine Liberal Democrats side with Labour to defeat the Government.
Mr Osborne acknowledged that the inability to commit British forces to any American-led operation against Assad over his use of chemical weapons would damage the special relationship between Westminster and Washington.
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 like us to be, or whether we turn our back on that.
"I understand the deep scepticism that many of my colleagues in Parliament, many members of the public, have about British military involvement in Syria. I hope this doesn't become a moment where we turn our back on all of the world's problems."
The Chancellor said that in discussions with the White House since the shock vote in the Commons on Thursday night there had been a "lot of understanding" about the Government's decision to rule out military support. But Mr Osborne added: "Obviously it would have been better from the point of view of the special relationship if we were able to take part in any military action, should that military action take place, alongside the Americans. But we are not going to because we are going to respect the will of Parliament."
The Chancellor insisted there had been "hyperbole" over the depth of any damage to the relationship with the US.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown said the defeat in the Commons had left the UK a "hugely diminished country". The former special forces soldier added on Twitter: "In 50 years trying to serve my country I have never felt so depressed/ashamed. Britain's answer to the Syrian horrors? none of our business!"
The possibility of military action in Syria led the Foreign Office to warn that Britons should avoid all but essential travel to Lebanon because of a "heightened risk of anti-Western sentiment".
The Commons motion backing the use of force "if necessary" in response to last week's deadly chemical weapons attack was rejected by 272 votes to 285, majority 13.