Trump ‘disrespectful and wrong’ over UK ambassador, says Hunt Foreign secretary and PM hopeful backs up Kim Darroch as US president calls him stupid

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Donald Trump, Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt during the US president’s state visit Donald Trump, Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt during the US president’s state visit last month. Photograph: Chris Jackson/PA

Jeremy Hunt has publicly taken Donald Trump to task for “disrespectful and wrong” insults levelled at the UK’s ambassador to Washington, whose leaked memos criticising the president have caused a diplomatic crisis between Britain and the US.

The foreign secretary backed up Sir Kim Darroch after Trump called him “wacky”, “very stupid” and “a pompous fool”, a day after saying he would no longer deal with him.

Trump also volleyed a series of insults at Theresa May, saying her Brexit plan had been a disaster because she ignored his advice.

Despite Trump’s refusal to deal with Darroch any more, Hunt, who is up against Boris Johnson in the race to succeed May, said he would keep the ambassador in place if he were to become prime minister. His remarks will put pressure on Johnson, the Conservative leadership favourite, to stand up for Britain’s top diplomat in an ITV debate on Tuesday night.

In a series of tweets, Hunt said: “[Donald Trump], friends speak frankly so I will: these comments are disrespectful and wrong to our prime minister and my country. Your diplomats give their private opinions to [Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state], and so do ours!

“You said the UK/US alliance was the greatest in history and I agree but allies need to treat each other with respect as Theresa May has always done with you. Ambassadors are appointed by the UK government and if I become PM our ambassador stays.”

Downing Street has offered Darroch its full support but the crisis has deepened with Trump’s repeated criticisms of the ambassador.

It began after the Mail on Sunday printed extracts of confidential memos in which Darroch labelled Trump’s administration “inept” and “dysfunctional”. The US president gave a relatively measured response on Sunday saying he was not a big fan of Darroch, but then announced on Monday he would no longer deal with the ambassador.

In a fresh volley of tweets on Tuesday morning, Trump again condemned Darroch and renewed his criticism of the prime minister over her Brexit negotiations, which he had praised on his state visit to the UK just over a month ago.

“The wacky ambassador that the UK foisted upon the United States is not someone we are thrilled with, a very stupid guy,” Trump wrote. “He should speak to his country, and Prime Minister May, about their failed Brexit negotiation, and not be upset with my criticism of how badly it was handled.

“I told her how to do that deal, but she went her own foolish way – was unable to get it done. A disaster! I don’t know the ambassador but have been told he is a pompous fool. Tell him the USA now has the best economy and military anywhere in the world, by far and they are both only getting bigger, better and stronger.”

It emerged later that Darroch would not accompany Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, who is in Washington, to the White House for a meeting with Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, on Tuesday.

Donald J. Trump



 The wacky Ambassador that the U.K. foisted upon the United States is not someone we are thrilled with, a very stupid guy. He should speak to his country, and Prime Minister May, about their failed Brexit negotiation, and not be upset with my criticism of how badly it was...

 Trump’s deeply personal condemnation, unprecedented in the recent history of relations between the US and UK, made no apparent impact on Downing Street’s view, with May’s spokesman saying subsequently that Darroch would remain in his post.

“The prime minister’s view is that he is a highly respected and dutiful public servant, and he has the full confidence of the prime minister.”

In a pointed riposte to Trump’s criticisms of May’s Brexit negotiations, the spokesman noted the president’s comments at a joint press conference during his state visit to the UK “in which he said she brought the negotiations to a very good point, and that the PM deserved a lot of credit. And as you know, nothing further has happened in the Brexit negotiations since then.”

The spokesman declined to say why Darroch was not accompanying Fox to the White House, saying the ambassador was “supporting Liam Fox on his trip in other ways”. It is understood Darroch took the decision himself to avoid putting Ivanka Trump in a difficult position.

Darroch has been prevented by Trump from attending a dinner for the Emir of Qatar, but the Foreign Office was reassured this was a one-off, and it does not denote he is being debarred from future events or meetings.

Hunt is understood to believe the next British ambassador to Washington should be a career diplomat, since to do otherwise would probably be seen to be giving a victory to the leakers. Washington was not named as one of the postings that should be open to outside appointments, Foreign Office sources also pointed out.

The foreign secretary has been in touch with Darroch to offer his personal support, and there has been no discussion of him leaving his post early.

On Tuesday morning, May gave the same message to the weekly meeting of her cabinet, condemning the leak to the Mail on Sunday as “utterly unacceptable”.

Describing May’s words to cabinet, her spokesman said: “The prime minister said that while at the same time the views expressed in the documents are not necessarily the views of ministers or the government, it is hugely important that ambassadors are able to provide honest, unvarnished assessments of the politics in their country. She said it is therefore absolutely right that we continue to give Sir Kim Darroch our full support.”

In his tweets on Monday, Trump said: “I do not know the ambassador, but he is not liked or well thought of within the US. 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!”

In criticism of May, he wrote: “I have been very critical about the way the UK 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.”

The words will be a blow to the outgoing prime minister, who has placed great store in seeking to develop close ties with Trump, visiting him in Washington soon after his inauguration and then agreeing to the state visit, and an earlier working visit, both of which were greeted by protests.