Former Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt warns of dangerous precedent created by Parliament's Syria vote

'There is now a question mark about what parliament actually will authorise military support for,' he told The Guardian

Former Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt has warned that the parliamentary vote against taking military action in Syria has potentially created a dangerous precedent that could hamstring the UK’s ability to intervene in conflicts overseas.

Mr Burt, who oversaw policy on Syria for three years, said moderates in the Syrian opposition had been “absolutely devastated” by the vote in August and that it had boosted extremists in the ranks of rebels fighting President Bashar Assad.

President Assad and his acolytes would continue their bloody crackdown on the revolt unless they feared they might “end up in a storm drain with a bayonet up their backside”, he added.

But Mr Burt, who lost his post in the autumn reshuffle, said the decision to give parliament a binding vote on military action in Syria could now mean UK forces will rarely get involved in operations overseas.

“There is now a question mark about what parliament actually will authorise military support for,” he told The Guardian.

“There is Gibraltar and the Falklands – I think we can assume those. I am not sure we can assume anything else. Where does that leave us and our partnerships around the world? We have put ourselves in a constitutional mess this way.”

Mr Burt said the Government should take “executive action” in matters of foreign affairs.

“If parliament does not ultimately go for it, then the issue becomes a vote of confidence issue. I don’t think you can handle foreign affairs by having to try to convince 326 people [more than half of MPs] each time you need to take a difficult decision,” he said.

“You do it and if they don’t like it, they can vote you out and they can have a general election.”

The UK “knew exactly what would happen if there was not a strike against Assad over chemical weapons,” he said.

“He goes on. And the only thing that would deflect this man and this regime is if they fear they are going to end up in a storm drain with a bayonet up their backside. If they don’t fear that, they will go on killing as many people as they need to stay in power.”

The West had talked “a good game” about backing the opposition, but parliament had then reneged on the offers of support made by Government.

“I think moderate Syrian opposition was absolutely devastated by this decision. They felt in a sense that their last hope had gone,” Mr Burt said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there