May Summons Emergency Cabinet to Discuss U.K. Syria Response

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(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Theresa May called an emergency Cabinet meeting for Thursday afternoon to discuss the U.K.’s response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The planned meeting comes as Donald Trump used Twitter to threaten a missile strike on Syria, while the president also met his Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, on Wednesday.

In the U.K., May was clear on who she blamed for the attack last weekend outside Damascus and she has ordered submarines to move within missile range of Syria, according to the Daily Telegraph, which cited unidentified Whitehall sources.

“All the indications are that the Syrian regime was responsible,” she told reporters on Wednesday. “We will be working with our closest allies on how we can ensure that those who are responsible are held to account. The continued use of chemical weapons cannot go unchallenged.”

As well as what part to take in any international response, May and her ministers must decide whether to seek Parliamentary approval first. Her predecessor, David Cameron, unexpectedly lost a vote on military action after a Syrian chemical weapons attack in 2013, leading the U.S. to pull back from action as well.

May Has Trump, Brexit, Spy Tension to Consider on Syria Response

There’s no requirement for May to get parliamentary approval, but since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, it’s been accepted that lawmakers should have a say. Parliament is in recess until Monday, but a vote could be held retroactively.

May lacks a majority in Parliament, and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has always opposed military action in the past. But many in his own party say he has been too weak in his stance toward Russia, especially over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal on British soil last month. It is likely that a vote would see Labour split, with a significant section of the party backing action.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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