In this file photo taken on Jan 18, 2017 British Ambassador Kim Darroch speaks at an afternoon tea hosted by the British Embassy to mark the US Presidential Inauguration at The British Embassy in Washington, DC. (PAUL MORGI / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)
LONDON - Britain's ambassador to Washington resigned on Wednesday after Donald Trump labelled him "stupid" and "wacky" following the release of confidential memos from the envoy in which he branded the US president's administration inept.
Memos from Kim Darroch were leaked to a British Sunday newspaper, infuriating Trump who launched a stinging Twitter attack on both the envoy and British Prime Minister Theresa May who had given him her full support.
In a growing spat between the two close allies, Trump said he would no longer deal with Darroch and called May "foolish". In his resignation letter, Darroch said his position was no longer tenable.
"Since the leak of official documents from this Embassy there has been a great deal of speculation surrounding my position and the duration of my remaining term as ambassador," he wrote.
I have told him it is a matter of great regret that he has felt it necessary to leave his position as ambassador to Washingtog
Theresa May, British PM
"I want to put an end to that speculation," he added. " The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like."
The UK's top Foreign Office civil servant said it is unprecedented for the head of a friendly state to refuse to deal with a British envoy.
Asked by lawmakers whether he knew of any other occasions when the head of a friendly state had refused to cooperate with a British envoy, Simon McDonald said: "None."
In his confidential memos dating from 2017 to the present, Darroch, 65, had said reports of in-fighting in the White House were "mostly true" and last month described confusion within the administration over Trump's decision to call off a military strike on Iran.
"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," Darroch wrote in one cable.
The UK's top Foreign Office civil servant said it is unprecedented for the head of a friendly state to refuse to deal with a British envoy
May told parliament that ministers had expressed their backing for Darroch, a career diplomat who was due to leave his post anyway at the end of the year.
"I have told him it is a matter of great regret that he has felt it necessary to leave his position as ambassador to Washington," she said. "The whole cabinet rightly gave its full support to Sir Kim on Tuesday."
The souring of relations between Britain and the United States comes at a particularly unwelcome time for London, which is mired in the details of how and when to leave the European Union, a departure currently scheduled for Oct 31.
Britain is hoping to strike a major post-Brexit trade deal with Washington as one of the upsides of leaving the bloc.
May herself is due to step down as prime minister by the end of July and while one of the two contenders to replace her, foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, had said Darroch should keep his job, the other, frontrunner Boris Johnson, had pointedly declined to do so.
British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, a contender for May's job, had said in a televised debate on Tuesday evening that Darroch should keep his job. But frontrunner Boris Johnson, who has promised Britain will leave the EU with or without a deal by Halloween, pointedly declined to do so.
An inquiry is under way into who leaked the memos. The head of Britain's diplomatic service, Simon McDonald, said it was the worst breach of trust he had seen in his career
During a campaign visit on Wednesday, Johnson, who was himself foreign
minister until a year ago, called Darroch "a superb diplomat", adding that
whoever leaked the documents had "done a grave disservice to our civil
But there was anger among many British politicians that Darroch had been forced out, said junior foreign minister Alan Duncan, who blamed Johnson.
"He has basically thrown this fantastic diplomat under the bus to serve his own personal interests," he told BBC TV.
"His sort of disregard for Sir Kim Darroch and his refusal to back him was, in my view, pretty contemptible, but also not in the interests of the country he is trying to lead."
An inquiry is under way into who leaked the memos. The head of Britain's diplomatic service, Simon McDonald, said it was the worst breach of trust he had seen in his career.
He said it was unprecedented for a head of state, friendly or hostile, to refuse to work with British ambassadors, and the last time there had been a problem with an envoy to the United States was in 1856.
"It appears that the British envoy to the United States has been removed according to the wishes of a foreign potentate," Tom Tugendhat, chairman of parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, told Sky TV.
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