Donald Trump has vowed to cut ties with the UK’s ambassador to Washington after leaked memos showed the British diplomat branded the US president’s administration as “inept” and “uniquely dysfunctional”.
Leaked extracts from diplomatic telegrams were published by the Mail on Sunday, and chronicled Sir Kim Darroch’s criticisms of the White House.
Theresa May says she has “full faith” in the ambassador, and has ordered a cross-government leak investigation.
Despite the best efforts of the British government, the diplomatic fallout intensified on Monday, with Trump taking to Twitter to launch an extraordinary attack on the outgoing Prime Minister and Darroch.
He said: “I have been very critical about the way the U.K. and Prime Minister Theresa May handled Brexit.
“What a mess she and her representatives have created.
“I told her how it should be done, but she decided to go another way.
“I do not know the Ambassador, but he is not liked or well thought of within the U.S. We will no longer deal with him.
“The good news for the wonderful United Kingdom is that they will soon have a new Prime Minister.
“While I thoroughly enjoyed the magnificent State Visit last month, it was the Queen who I was most impressed with!”
Trump infamously told May she should threaten to sue the EU if Brussels were unwilling to meet her demands in the Brexit negotiations – advice she declined to act upon.
Downing Street is resisting calls to bring in the police to investigate the leaking of the sensitive memos, instead opting for a civil service led inquiry.
Senior Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, chair of parliament’s foreign affairs select committee, was not satisfied with that move, and in an urgent question in the Commons called for more serious action to be taken.
He said: “I have today written to the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to ask that a criminal investigation also be opened into the leak.
“I have asked her for reassurance that all necessary resources will be made available to ensure that the source of this leak is determined as a priority.”
Foreign office minister Sir Alan Duncan defended the decision to carry out a civil service led inquiry, but added: “If evidence of criminality is found, then yes, the police could be involved.”
The leaks covered diplomatic telegrams and memos dating from 2017 to as recently as last month.
The notes would have been sent to civil servants and politicians in the UK.
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry claimed that Darroch had been “betrayed” by whoever leaked the memos.
“He has been hung out to dry even though his only crime was to tell the truth,” she said, adding: “He told the truth about Donald Trump, and that was because it was his job.”
The leak of the diplomatic memos comes just weeks after the concerns of civil servants about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s health were made public, and two months after Gavin Williamson was sacked as defence secretary after he was blamed for leaking from a National Security Council meeting.
Reflecting on this incidents, Tugendhat said: “I fear that we are developing a culture of leaks and that will be extremely detrimental to the UK. They damage our reputation, impact on our ability to function effectively and undermine our relationships with our allies.”
The embarrassment of the leaks from Darroch’s memos comes at a critical time for the UK’s diplomatic service – which is engaged in a war of words with China over the actions of anti-Beijing protestors in the former UK colony of Hong Kong, as well as the ongoing Brexit uncertainty.