The prospect of British involvement in military action in Syria ended dramatically last night when David Cameron suffered a surprise and humiliating Commons defeat on the issue.
Despite concessions by the Prime Minister to opponents of military action, a rebellion by Conservative MPs and strong opposition by Labour saw the Government defeated by 285 votes to 272.
The vote leaves Mr Cameron's foreign policy in disarray and will raise new questions over his leadership. He is unable to deliver British support to American-led strikes on Syria over the Assad regime's alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians near Damascus. The vote will dismay the Obama administration, which is now likely to press ahead without the UK, perhaps as early as this weekend. One US military official said after the vote: “We care about what the UK thinks. We value the [Parliamentary] process but we're going to make the decision we need to make.”
The rejected government motion said the response to the weapons attack “may, if necessary, require military action”. Although Mr Cameron promised a second vote next week before any British involvement, he failed to win support last night for what Labour described as a vote in principle for military action.