- Kim Darroch has resigned as the UK ambassador to the US, following a public row with President Donald Trump.
- His departure comes after confidential memos he sent about Trump were leaked to the press.
- In the memos, Darroch referred to the Trump administration as “uniquely dysfunctional” and “inept.”
- Trump responded by labelling Darroch “pompous” and “stupid” and insisting he would no longer work with him.
- Prime Minister Theresa May’s likely successor, Boris Johnson, declined to defend Darroch on Tuesday.
- Darroch said it had become “impossible” for him to remain in post, with the BBC reporting that Johnson’s refusal to defend him was a key factor in his decision.
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The UK’s ambassador to the US has resigned after confidential memos he wrote labelling President Donald Trump “dysfunctional” and “incompetent” were leaked to the press.
Kim Darroch entered the eye of a diplomatic storm this week after remarks he made disparaging the Trump administration were leaked to the Mail on Sunday newspaper.
In the notes, the ambassador said Trump’s government was “uniquely dysfunctional” and added: “We don’t really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal.”
He also described Trump’s presidency as “incompetent,” and “inept.”
Trump on Tuesday responded by tweeting that Darroch was a “very stupid guy” and a “pompous fool” and suggested that the White House would no longer work with him.
Trump also attacked Prime Minister Theresa May as “foolish” and accused her of making a “mess” of Brexit.
Following the conflict, Darroch said it had become “impossible” for him to remain in post.
“Since the leak of official documents from this Embassy there has been a great deal of speculation surrounding my position and the duration of my remaining term as ambassador,” he said Wednesday in a statement.
“I want to put an end to that speculation. The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like.”
He added: “Although my posting is not due to end until the end of this year, I believe in the current circumstances the responsible course is to allow the appointment of a new ambassador.”
May told the House of Commons that it was a “matter of great regret” that Darroch had stepped down.
The opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn agreed, saying the comments made about him by Trump were “beyond unfair and wrong.”
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted that he was “deeply saddened to hear of the resignation of Sir Kim Darroch.”
He continued: “Standing up for Britain means standing up for the finest diplomats on the world. It should never have come to this.”
A colleague of Darroch’s, the permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, Simon McDonald, told a parliamentary committee that the ambassador’s decision was partly based on concerns about his family, following the row with Trump.
“As long as he remained in Washington he would be a target, and his family with him,” McDonald said.
He added: “Nothing like this has ever happened before. There must be consequences.”
Boris Johnson accused of throwing Darroch ‘under a bus’
Boris Johnson, the frontrunner to replace May as prime minister, has been branded “contemptible” by his colleagues after declining to back Darroch.
Darroch’s future was thrown into doubt Tuesday when Johnson refused to say Darroch should remain in post.
Johnson refused to criticise Trump for his comments about the prime minister, saying only that the president had been “dragged into a British political debate.”
“We don’t want to put the whole special relationship on the edge because of a row about one person,” a senior ally of Johnson told The Times. “We do not have anything to gain from a running spat with the White House.”
The BBC reported that Johnson’s refusal to back Darroch was key to his decision to step down.
"Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary, has basically thrown our top diplomat under the bus"
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) July 10, 2019
The Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan told BBC News that “Boris Johnson has basically thrown our top diplomat under a bus.”
He said Johnson’s refusal to defend Darroch was “pretty contemptible,” adding: “There are a lot of people here in the Commons who are very, very angry and feel he has lost so much respect for having done what he’s done.”
Conservative MP Patrick McLoughlin agreed, saying: “It is unedifying to see someone who wants to be prime minister failing to stand up for hardworking civil servants, who have done nothing wrong, under attack from foreign governments.”
“Leadership involves standing up for your team. If we don’t call out those who want a witch hunt through the civil service, we are complicit in creating divisions that may never heal.”
Hunt for the source of the leak
The police are now involved in the source of the Darroch leaks, a senior British civil servant confirmed on Wednesday.
The permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, McDonald, confirmed to members of Parliament that the Metropolitan Police had been brought in to help with the investigation.
He told the House of Commons Select Committee that the department was braced for more leaks, but he played down suggestions that they originated either from the US or a “hostile state” intercepting the messages.
It was reported earlier this week that UK officials were investigating whether the Russian government hacked the secret diplomatic memos.
The foreign secretary on Monday said the possibility of a Russian cyberattack to steal a huge tranche of memos written by Darroch had come to be an official line of inquiry.
The inquiry into who leaked the tranche of documents initially focused on senior UK politicians and officials, but senior Foreign Office figures believe an enemy government hoping to destabilize relations between Western powers could have been behind it.
Hunt told the Sun newspaper: “Of course it would be massively concerning if it was the act of a foreign, hostile state.
“I’ve seen no evidence that that’s the case, but we’ll look at the leak inquiry very carefully.
One senior UK government figure told the paper: “A big question now being asked is who would have the most to gain from the leak?
“Without doubt that the answer is a hostile state who wants to cause division, because they have succeeded.”