MPs are "surprised and deeply concerned" about the UK's fight against IS. Photo: Getty
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MPs condemn the UK government role in fighting Islamic State as "strikingly modest"

A cross-party group of MPs are calling for greater action against the extremist militants.

A cross-party body of MPs are calling on the UK to do more in the fight against Islamic State (IS). They have condemned the government's role in attempting to defeat the extremist militants as "strikingly modest", and warned against it "lurching to doing nothing" because of Britain's previous failures in Iraq.

The Defence Select Committee has issued a report that has found the UK's role lacking, and recommends the government steps up its action against IS in Iraq. The report acknowledges the difficulty of fighting such a terrorist group but argues that Britain should be prepared to supply further air support, invest heavily in staff to develop a better understanding of the situation on the ground, and to help shape a realistic plan for dealing with the threat.

The committee found that Britain has only carried out 6 per cent of Coalition air strikes against the jihadists and said it was "surprised and deeply concerned" it was not doing more in the international effort to eradicate the group.

The chair of the committee, Tory MP Rory Stewart, has given a strongly-worded response to the UK's role so far in fighting IS:

The nightmare of a jihadist state establishing across Syria and Iraq has finally been realised. DAESH controls territory equivalent to the size of the UK, has contributed to the displacement of millions, destabilising and threatening neighbouring states, and providing safe-haven to an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters, many dedicated to an international terrorist campaign.  Yet, the role that the UK is playing in combating it, is strikingly modest.

Visiting Iraq in December last year, the committee's MPs found only three British personnel working outside the Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq (compared with the the 400 Australians, 280 Italians and 300 Spanish). They found none on the ground with a high level of expertise in the tribes, or politics of Iraq, or a deep understanding of the Shia militia, which is involved in the fighting against IS.

However, the committee stops short at recommending the deployment of combat forces (the often-debated "boots on the ground") to the region.

Stewart added:

We must clearly acknowledge the previous failures in Iraq, and reform our approach. But that does not mean lurching to doing nothing. The UK should find a way of engaging with Iraq which is moderate, pragmatic, but energetic. There are dozens of things the UK could be doing, without deploying combat troops, to work with coalition partners to help address one of the most extreme threats that we have faced in the last twenty years.

If the number of high-profile barbaric acts committed by the extremists increases, such as the recent murder of the Jordanian pilot condemned by the PM as "sickening", the government will continue coming under greater pressure to up its game in the region.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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Article 50 deadline: Nick Clegg urges Remainers to "defy Brexit bullies and speak up"

The former deputy Prime Minister argued Brexiteers were trying to silence the 48 per cent. 

On Wednesday 29 March, at 12.30pm, Britain's ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow, will hand deliver a letter to the European Council President, Donald Tusk. On that sheet of paper will be the words triggering Article 50. Nine months after Britain voted for Brexit, it will formally begin the process of leaving the EU.

For grieving Remainers, the delivery of the letter abruptly marks the end of the denial stage. But what happens next?

Speaking at an Open Britain event, former Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg had an answer. Responding to the concerns of a scientist in the audience, he declared:

“The most important thing of all is people like you make your voice heard. What the hysterical aggression from the Brexiteers means is they want to silence you.

"That’s why they attack everyone. The Bank of England - how dare you speak about the British economy? How dare judges make a judgement? How dare Remainers still believe they want to be part of the EU? 

"What they systematically try to do is bully and delegitimise anyone who disagrees with their narrow world view.

"It’s a ludicrous thing when 16.1m people - that’s more than have ever voted for a party in a general election - voted for a different future, when 70 per cent of youngsters have voted for a different future.

"It is astonishing these people, how they give themselves the right to say: 'You have no voice, how dare you stick to your views how dare you stick to your dreams and aspirations?'

That’s the most important thing of all. You don’t get bored, you don’t get miserable, you don’t glum, you continue to speak up. What they hope is you’ll just go home, the most important thing is people continue to speak up."

He urged those affected by Brexit to lobby their MPs, and force them to raise the issue in Parliament. 

After Article 50 is triggered, the UK positioning is over, and the EU negotiators will set out their response. As well as the official negotiating team, MEPs and leaders of EU27 countries are likely to give their views - and with elections scheduled in France and Germany, some will be responding to the pressures of domestic politics first. 

For those Remainers who feel politically homeless, there are several groups that have sprung up to campaign against a hard Brexit:

Open Britain is in many ways the successor to the Remain campaign, with a cross-party group of MPs and a focus on retaining access to the single market and holding the government to account. 

Another Europe is Possible was the alternative, left-wing Remain campaign. It continues to organise protests and events.

March for Europe is a cross-Europe Facebook community which also organises events.

The People's Challenge was a crowd-funded campaign which, alongside the more famous Gina Miller, successfully challenged the government in court and forced it to give Parliament a vote on triggering Article 50.

The3million is a pressure group set up to represent EU citizens in the UK.

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.