Downing Street says the UK’s ambassador to the US has the prime minister’s “full support”, despite Donald Trump saying he will no longer work with him.
The US president was responding after leaked emails revealed Sir Kim Darroch had called his administration inept.
Number 10 called the leak “unfortunate” and said the UK and US still shared a “special and enduring” relationship.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “We have made clear to the US how unfortunate this leak is. The selective extracts leaked do not reflect the closeness of, and the esteem in which we hold, the relationship.”
With the current prime minister almost out of the door, and the UK ambassador in Washington leaving too, the remarks are unlikely to change much directly, and this allows Number 10 to try to shrug off the criticism.
Less officially, though, there is real frustration. One senior Tory warned that “we cannot bow down to this form of lunacy” where the leader of another country tries to use online swagger to seek revenge on one of the UK’s diplomats – not least from one of our most important allies.
Is ambassador now ‘persona non grata’?
By saying he won’t deal with Sir Kim Darroch any more, Donald Trump is apparently all but declaring the ambassador to be persona non grata. That is the formal legal process by which a host government expels a foreign diplomat.
Sir Kim, who is an honourable man and was stepping down anyway in a few months, may decide to resign. If, however, Mr Trump merely means he won’t deal personally with Sir Kim then the ambassador may stay on until the new prime minister can make his own appointment.
This all presents the British government with an awkward dilemma – to buckle under US pressure and bring Sir Kim home, risking accusations of abject weakness, or to stand firm and defend their ambassador for doing his job and telling the truth as he sees it, risking even further damage to the UK-US relationship.