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Rishi Sunak says UK acted in 'self-defence' as Government lays out its legal case for RAF air strikes on Yemen

Rishi Sunak says UK acted in 'self-defence' as Government lays out its legal case for RAF air strikes on Yemen

Rishi Sunak said Britain acted in “self-defence” as his Government laid out its legal case for RAF air strikes on Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen targeting ships in the Red Sea.

On a visit to Ukraine, he defended the military action in Yemen, saying: “What we have done here is take limited and necessary action in response to a specific threat, in self-defence.”

He stressed similar action had been taken by Britain in 2015 and 2018 and he would be make a statement to Parliament on the latest air strikes on Monday.

He also emphasised that the UK needs to send a “strong signal” that Houthi rebel attacks in the Red Sea are wrong and cannot be carried out with “impunity”.

Sir Keir Starmer backed the military action but some MPs say there should have first been a vote on it in Parliament.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he had told the Government that he was happy to help to recall Parliament, as being demanded by the Liberal Democrats.

Meanwhile, the Government published a summary of its legal position following the military strikes on Houthi targets.

It states: “Military intervention to strike carefully identified targets in order to effectively downgrade the Houthi’s capabilities and deter further attacks was lawfully taken.

“It was necessary and proportionate to respond to attacks by the Houthis and this was the only feasible means available to deal with such attacks.”

It continues: “The UK is permitted under international law to use force in such circumstances where acting in self-defence is the only feasible means to deal with an actual or imminent armed attack and where the force used is necessary and proportionate.

“The Government will notify the United Nations Security Council of the actions it has taken under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.”

The Royal Navy’s destroyer HMS Diamond was reported to have been threatened in the biggest barrage of drone and missile strikes launched yet by the Houthi rebels, on Tuesday.

The UN Security Council backed a resolution earlier this week demanding that the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea stop and stressing that nations have the right to self-defence.

In December 2015, MPs voted by 397 to 223 for UK air strikes against Islamic State in Syria, with Mr Cameron arguing that bombing the “medieval monsters” in their heartland would help to make Britain safer.

UK air strikes were launched against the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons facilities in April 2018 without recourse to Parliament.

Theresa May, who was Prime Minister at the time, argued it was “legally and morally right” for Britain to join air strikes against Assad’s brutal regime to prevent “further human suffering”.

A vote, forced by the Scottish National Party, on whether the Commons had sufficiently debated the matter of Syria, was won by the Government by 314 to 36.

A Commons Library research paper states: “The decision to deploy the Armed Forces in situations of armed conflict is currently a prerogative power.

“In the event of a declaration of war or the commitment of British forces to military action, constitutional convention requires that authorisation is given by the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Crown. Decisions on military action are taken within the Cabinet with advice from, among others, the National Security Council and the Chief of the Defence Staff.”

The briefing adds: “In constitutional terms Parliament has no legally established role and the Government is under no legal obligation with respect to its conduct, including keeping Parliament informed.

“In practice however, successive Governments have consulted and informed the House of Commons about the decision to use force and the progress of military campaigns, although there has been little consistency in how that has been achieved.”