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Darroch resigns as ambassador to the US

The envoy said it was ‘impossible’ to carry on in his current role after the leak of dispatches critical of the Trump White House.

Sir Kim Darroch (Niall Carson, PA)
Sir Kim Darroch (Niall Carson, PA)

Sir Kim Darroch is to resign as British ambassador to the United States following the leak of memos highly critical of Donald Trump’s White House.

In a letter to the head of the Foreign Office, Sir Simon McDonald, Sir Kim said he believed it was “impossible” for him to carry on in his current role.

“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 said.

“I want to put an end to that speculation. The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like.

“Although my posting is not due to end until the end of this year, I believe in the current circumstances the responsible course is to allow the appointment of a new ambassador.”

His decision came after President Trump said the White House would no longer have any dealings with him following the leak of the dispatches describing his administration as “inept” and “dysfunctional”.

In a televised debate on Tuesday, Tory leadership front runner Boris Johnson repeatedly refused to say whether he would keep Sir Kim in post if he became prime minister.

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Theresa May told MPs that Sir Kim’s resignation was a matter of ‘great regret’ (House of Commons/PA)

In the Commons, Theresa May told MPs that she had spoken to Sir Kim and told him that it was a “matter of great regret” that he felt it necessary to leave his post.

“The whole Cabinet rightly gave its full support to Sir Kim on Tuesday. Sir Kim has given a lifetime of service to the United Kingdom and we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude,” she said.

“Good government depends on public servants being able to give full and frank advice.

“I want all our public servants to have the confidence to be able to do that and I hope the House will reflect on the importance of defending our values and principles, particularly when they are under pressure.”

Boris Johnson refused to say whether he would keep Sir Kim in post (David Mirzoeff/PA)In his reply to Sir Kim, Sir Simon said he was accepting his resignation with “deep personal regret”.

“Over the last few difficult days you have behaved as you have always behaved over a long and distinguished career, with dignity, professionalism and class,” he said.

“The Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and whole of the public service have stood with you: you were the target of a malicious leak; you were simply doing your job.

“I understand your wish to relieve the pressure on your family and your colleagues at the embassy; I admire the fact that you think more of others than yourself.

“You demonstrate the essence of the values of British public service.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt – who is vying with Mr Johnson for the Tory leadership – praised Sir Kim’s “unswerving devotion” to upholding the interests of the United Kingdom.

I am sure that our ambassadors worldwide will continue to provide the objective and rigorous reporting that the Foreign Office has always prized Jeremy Hunt

“In that spirit, he brought dispassionate insight and directness to his reporting to ministers in London. I am outraged that a selection of his reports should have been leaked,” he said.

“I am 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.”

Mr Johnson also expressed his regret, paying tribute to Sir Kim as a “superb diplomat” who he had worked with for many years.

“I think whoever leaked his diptels (diplomatic telegrams) really has done a grave disservice to our civil servants, to people who give impartial advice to ministers,” he said.

“I hope that whoever it is, is run down, caught and eviscerated, quite frankly, because it is not right that advice to ministers that civil servants must be able to make in a spirit of freedom should be leaked.

“It is not right that civil servants’ careers and prospects should be dragged into the political agenda.”

Earlier however the former foreign secretary faced a furious backlash after he repeatedly refused to say whether he would continue with Sir Kim as ambassador.

Former prime minister Sir John Major pointedly warned that if a senior diplomat was “thrown to the wolves” it would damage the relationship between an incoming prime minister and the Civil Service.

“We really cannot have our ambassadors chosen by the host government, however eminent those host governments may be,” Sir John, who is backing Mr Hunt in the leadership race, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Pointing out that “loyalty is a two-way street”, Sir John said: “I do not think that is good for the morale of the Civil Service and I do not think anybody who does that will endear themselves in obtaining the loyalty of the Civil Service in future.”

Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan, whose brief includes the United States, said he was “severely disappointed that Boris Johnson appears unwilling to stand up for our ambassador to the US, our PM or our country”.

Sir Alan, another Hunt supporter, said Mr Johnson was an “utter wimp when the crunch comes when he should be making a stand”.

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