Britain’s ambassador to Washington Sir Kim Darroch said on Wednesday he was resigning after drawing US President Donald Trump’s ire for criticizing him and his administration in leaked confidential cables to London.
“The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like,” Darroch wrote in his resignation letter. “I believe in the current circumstances the responsible course is to allow the appointment of a new ambassador.”
Darroch said he is “grateful to all those in the UK and the US, who have offered their support during this difficult few days.”
UK Prime Minister Theresa May said it was a “matter of regret” that Darroch resigned while the Foreign Office praised Darroch’s “professionalism and class.”
Former foreign minister Boris Johnson, a hardliner on Brexit and favorite to replace May in a leadership contest against Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, refused to promise to keep Darroch in his position if he became prime minister during a televised debate Tuesday evening.
In contrast, Hunt said Darroch would remain in the role until his December retirement.
Neither candidate would commit to keeping him in the role beyond the end of the year.
London has been scrambling to stem the damage caused by the leaked documents — meant for a limited audience and discreet review — in which Darroch described the US leader as “inept” and his White House as “uniquely dysfunctional.”
Trump on Tuesday assailed Darroch as a “pompous fool” and slammed outgoing premier May’s “foolish” policies.
“The wacky Ambassador that the UK foisted upon the United States is not someone we are thrilled with, a very stupid guy,” Trump tweeted, mirroring a furious barrage of insults the day before.
The US president’s early morning wrath was not solely reserved for Darroch, however. Trump doubled down in attacking May and her fraught Brexit negotiations, saying he told her “how to do that deal, but she went her own foolish way-was unable to get it done. A disaster!”
Visibly angered by May’s continuing support for her ambassador — which Downing Street reiterated on Monday — Trump welcomed the prime minister’s impending departure from office.
“The good news for the wonderful United Kingdom is that they will soon have a new Prime Minister,” he wrote Monday, declaring that he would have no further contact with Darroch.
The cables’ publication in the Mail on Sunday newspaper came just a month after Trump enjoyed a state visit to Britain punctuated by a 41-gun salute at Buckingham Palace and a banquet dinner with the queen.
The incident threatens to complicate London’s efforts to strike a new trade agreement with the United States, seen as key to mitigating potential damage from Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.
It also comes as British politics are in for a major revamp, once May ends her three-year spell in power later this month.
British officials defended Darroch as carrying out his duties by providing “frank” accounts of developments in Washington.
“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,” the government spokesperson said.
The immediate suspicion of the London papers fell on Brexit-backing players in a power struggle within the governing Conservative Party.
During a stop at the Manchester airport on Tuesday, Johnson told reporters he had “no embarrassment” in saying he has a good relationship with the White House.
“I think it’s very important that we have a strong relationship with our most important ally,” he said, adding that he himself had been critical of the Brexit negotiations.
“That’s one of the reasons I am standing tonight and one of the reasons I am putting myself forward,” he said. “I think there is a chance to do things differently, a chance to break away from the failed old can-kicking approaching.”