The UK ambassador to the United States has described Donald Trump as “inept”, “insecure” and “incompetent” in leaked diplomatic cables which will put a serious strain on the so-called special relationship between the two nations.
First published by the Mail on Sunday, the “explosive memos” by “one of Britain’s top diplomats”, Sir Kim Darroch warn Whitehall colleagues that the White House is “uniquely dysfunctional”.
“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,” he writes in one candid report.
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In a series of highly revealing documents, Darroch warns Trump could be indebted to “dodgy Russians”, claims his economic policies could wreck the world trade system and voices fears he could still attack Iran.
The scandal-hit presidency could “crash and burn” and that “we could be at the beginning of a downward spiral... that leads to disgrace and downfall”. However, the UK’s top diplomat in the US nevertheless advises against writing Trump off, saying he may “emerge from the flames, battered but intact, like [Arnold] Schwarzenegger in the final scenes of The Terminator”.
While foreign envoys of all nations are often candid in classified dispatches back home, “his bombshell comments risk angering the notoriously thin-skinned President and undermining the UK's ‘special relationship’ with America”, says the Mail.
On Sunday, the UK government announced it had begun an inquiry into the leak, with the chairman of the foreign affairs select committee Tom Tugendhat saying that whoever was responsible for the “very serious breach” must be prosecuted.
“Diplomats must be able to communicate securely,” he told the BBC.
In 2016, The Sunday Times reported on a private memo in which Darroch apparently suggested the UK could exploit Trump’s character and inexperience in office.
The memo said: “The president-elect is above all an outsider and unknown quantity, whose campaign pronouncements may reveal his instincts, but will surely evolve and, particularly, be open to outside influence if pitched right.”
The latest leak come at a sensitive time in UK-US relations. Trump’s controversial state visit to the UK last month was generally regarded as a success by both administrations, but the US president has not been afraid to ditch diplomatic protocol and hold forth on the Brexit debate and the Tory leadership race.
CNN says Theresa May’s probable successor, Boris Johnson, “is seen as likely to seek to forge a much closer relationship to Trump than May, who made strenuous efforts to court the President and developed a respectful relationship but never really bonded with him politically”.
In his predictions for the first 100 days of a Johnson premiership, Politico’s Charlie Cooper writes the new prime minister’s team “may highlight the opportunities a no-deal Brexit can afford via ‘heavy engagement’ with US President Donald Trump’s administration from day one”, in pursuit of a post-Brexit UK-US free-trade agreement.
“Johnson... knows that a trade deal with the US would not come without significant sacrifices. Washington has made no secret of its determination to unlock the UK market for American farmers, something their British counterparts dread” says Cooper. “But an early photo opportunity with Trump, potentially in Washington, would contribute to Johnson's plan to persuade the EU he is serious about Britain making a clean break”.
CNN agrees, saying “Trump is expected to drive a hard bargain” in any future UK-US trade deal, “so there will be speculation that the leak of Darroch’s memos was a politically motivated act by someone in London to clear space in Washington for an outspokenly pro-Brexit ambassador”.
Nigel Farage, the Brexit party leader and close ally of Trump, appeared to throw his hat into the ring to replace Darroch, writing an article disparaging the ambassador in The Daily Telegraph and tweeting that the current occupant was “totally unsuitable for the job and the sooner his is gone the better”.
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