Boris Johnson to return home to UK amid criticism over response to Middle East crisis

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Boris Johnson is expected to return to the UK today amid mounting criticism over his refusal to cut short his Caribbean holiday to address soaring tensions in the Middle East.

Mr Johnson has been celebrating the New Year with his partner Carrie Symonds on the private Caribbean island of Mustique, and has not made any public statement over the US’s fatal strike on Iran’s top general.

He was under pressure from opposition leaders to make a statement on the killing of General Qasem Soleimani, with Jeremy Corbyn sending a letter requesting an urgent meeting. 

The Prime Minister is said to be arriving in the country early on Sunday, however Number 10 has not confirmed when exactly he will return or what his schedule will include upon his arrival. 

His silence amid the growing tensions in the Middle East had resulted in the hashtag “WheresBoris” trending on Twitter among other alarming trends about the conflict including “World War III”.

Anti-war protests were held opposite Number 10 on Saturday despite Mr Johnson still being on holiday (PA)

Mr Corbyn demanded an urgent meeting of the Privy Council with Mr Johnson over the situation after it emerged that the Pentagon would send 3,000 more troops to bolster their forces in the Middle East. 

Acting Lib Dem co-leader Sir Ed Davey added to criticism of the PM.

“Johnson’s silence on Trump’s dangerous assassination in Iraq is deafening,” Mr Davey said. “The Prime Minister must speak out now and make clear Britain will not support the US in repeating the mistake of the Iraq war.”

It has now been announced that Britain’s navy will accompany UK-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz to provide protection to ships sailing under a British merchant flag.

Tensions in the Middle East have escalated since the airstrike (AFP via Getty Images)

Defence minister Ben Wallace said he had ordered the warships HMS Montrose and HMS Defender to prepare to return to escort duties.

“The government will take all necessary steps to protect our ships and citizens at this time,” he said.

In the letter, Mr Corbyn asked seven questions about the airstrike which killed General Soleimani, the head of Tehran’s elite Quds Force.

The questions include what the UK Government knew ahead of the airstrike, which took place on Friday at Baghdad’s international airport , and if there was an increased terror risk in the UK.

John McDonnell has criticised the government’s response to the international crisis unfolding (PA)

He also asked whether Mr Johnson had spoken to US President Donald Trump about the airstrike. 

The outgoing opposition leader also asked if the UK had spoken to the UN “to discuss consequences for peace and security” and what measures had been taken to “ensure the safety of UK nationals”.

It has been claimed that Mr Johnson was not warned in advance about the US airstrike.

Shadow Chancellor also hit out at the government as he joined protesters at an anti-war demonstration outside Downing Street on Saturday. 

Speaking at the protest, Mr McDonnell said: “We’ve been here before, we were here 17 years ago. And there’s one lesson that came from those events, is that violence begets violence,” Mr McDonnell said

“And it was acts like this that led us to the catastrophic war in Iraq.”

A Government source defended Mr Johnson, saying “he’s been kept fully up to date” including by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab “at all times”.

“And he will be meeting with ministers on Monday and speaking to foreign leaders over the next few days,” they said.​

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