Britain’s ambassador to the U.S. abruptly resigned Wednesday amid a dispute over the diplomat’s leaked emails that were critical of President Donald Trump.
Sir Kim Darroch, 65, said he was resigning to put an end to speculation surrounding how long he would stay on as Britain’s envoy in Washington after diplomatic cables he sent back to London described the Trump administration as “inept” and “chaotic.”
The leaks brought a fierce backlash from Trump, who branded Darroch “wacky,” “incompetent” and a “very stupid guy.” In recent days, the Trump administration made it clear that Darroch was an unwelcome presence in Washington and would effectively be boycotting his participation in meetings. British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is herself standing down on July 23, had suggested that Darroch should stay in the role.
His tenure in Britain’s most important diplomatic post was due to end in early 2020.
“The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like,” Darroch wrote in his resignation letter to the head of Britain’s foreign civil service.
There was no immediate reaction from the White House.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is vying with former London Mayor Boris Johnson to replace May as Britain’s next leader, said in a statement that Darroch had “served his country with the utmost dedication and distinction.”
Hunt said he was “sure that our ambassadors worldwide will continue to provide the objective and rigorous reporting that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has always prized. I profoundly regret how this episode has led Sir Kim to decide to resign.”
In a live TV debate on Tuesday night, Johnson, the frontrunner who appears to have a good relationship with Trump, refused to say whether he would keep Darroch in the job if he became prime minister. Hunt called Trump’s comments “disrespectful.”
The confidential memos leaked Sunday to Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper contained stinging criticisms of Trump’s White House, portraying it as “clumsy” and completely absorbed by “infighting.” The emails date back to 2017.
The escalating furor comes at an awkward moment for Britain, which is in the process of selecting a new prime minister, after May steps down in a few weeks, but is also trying to resolve a political crisis caused by its three-year-old decision to vote to leave the European Union. It hasn’t happened yet because parliamentarians are split over the issue. The British government has launched a formal investigation into the source of the leaks but speculation in the British press has suggested, without evidence, that the leaker may have been motivated by wanting to see a more pro-Trump, pro-Brexit envoy in Washington representing Britain’s economic, cultural and political interests.
“It was clearly somebody who set out deliberately to sabotage Sir Kim’s ambassadorship, to make his position untenable and to have him replaced by somebody more congenial to the leaker,” Christopher Meyer, a former British ambassador to the U.S. and close friend of Darroch’s, told BBC radio on Tuesday.
In the leaked emails, Darroch said of Trump: “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.”