UK PM rushes to repair ties with US after diplomatic leak brands Trump’s White House ‘inept’
Washington/London, Jul 8: Britain’s ambassador to the US “has not served the UK well” Donald Trump has said after the envoy called the President’s administration “clumsy” and “inept” in leaked diplomatic cables, prompting Prime Minister Theresa May to initiate damage control measures to repair London’s special relationship with Washington.
In secret cables and briefing notes, the UK’s Ambassador to US Kim Darroch warned the British government that President Trump’s “career could end in disgrace,” and described conflicts within the White House as “knife fights,” according to reports in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.
“We don’t really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept,” Darroch allegedly wrote in one dispatch.
Darroch also said that President Trump and his team had been “dazzled” by their recent state visit to the UK but that while “we might be flavour of the month, but this is still the land of ‘America First’.”
When asked for his reaction to Darroch’s uncharitable comments, Trump told reporters on Sunday, “No I haven’t seen it, but, you know, we’ve had our little ins and outs with a couple of countries and I would say that the UK, and the ambassador has not served the UK well, I can tell you that.”
“We’re not big fans of that man and he has not served the UK well, so I can understand it,” Trump, who was received by Queen Elizabeth II during a state visit to Britain in June, said.
“And I can say things about him but I won’t bother,” the US President added.
British Prime Minister May has “full faith” in the UK ambassador Darroch, who criticised the Trump administration in leaked emails but she does not agree with the envoy’s assessment, her spokesman said on Monday.
May’s spokesman made it clear that the leak of the diplomatic mail was “absolutely unacceptable” and No 10 had made contact with the White House.
The BBC, quoting the prime minister’s spokesman said it was “the job of ambassadors to provide honest and unvarnished opinions” but May “does not agree with the assessment”.
“The leak is absolutely unacceptable and, as you would expect, contact has been made with the Trump administration setting out our view that we believe that it is unacceptable,” the spokesman added.
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, trying to salvage the situation, said the memos reflected a “personal view”, not that of the UK government.
Hunt – who is seeking to become the next Conservative leader and prime minister – said it was the ambassador’s job to give “frank opinions” but they did not reflect the government’s view.
On Monday, UK International Trade Minister Liam Fox also rushed to repair the damage to UK-US ties, saying he would apologise to Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump when he meets her during his current visit to Washington.
“I will be apologising for the fact that either our civil service or elements of our political class have not lived up to the expectations that either we have or the United States has about their behaviour, which in this particular case has lapsed in a most extraordinary and unacceptable way,” he told the BBC.
The leaked cables come at a sensitive time in UK politics with Conservative Party members currently electing a new prime minister to succeed Theresa May, who was toppled by her own lawmakers for failing to deliver on her country’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union.
The favourite for the job, Boris Johnson, is seen as likely to seek to forge a much closer relationship to Trump than May, who made strenuous efforts to court the President and developed a respectful relationship but never really bonded with him politically.
If the UK leaves the European Union, Britain will be seeking to seal a bilateral trade deal with the US and Trump is expected to drive a hard bargain. So there will be speculation that the leak of Darroch’s memos was a politically motivated act by someone in London to clear space in Washington for an outspokenly pro-Brexit ambassador, the CNN commented.
Darroch had been riding high on the success of Trump’s trip to the UK in June which largely went off without a hitch. His position with the Trump administration however now looks difficult at best. Though his memos are deeply sensitive given the source, the unflattering depiction of the Trump White House is one that will be recognizable to readers of US media outlets.
As the Foreign Office launched an investigation into the source of the leak, Fox said the leak was “unprofessional, unethical and unpatriotic”.
The UK International Trade Minister said that whoever released the emails had “maliciously” undermined the defence and security relationship with the US, “the most important global relationship that we have”.
“I hope if we can identify the individual, either the full force of internal discipline – or if necessary the law – will be brought to bear because this sort of behaviour has no place in public life,” he said.