LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain said on Monday (July 8) it had contacted Washington to express regret for the leak of confidential memos in which its ambassador described US President Donald Trump’s administration as “dysfunctional” and“inept”.
The memos from Mr Kim Darroch, the UK's ambassador to Washington, were leaked to a Sunday newspaper, annoying Mr Trump, embarrasing London and triggering demands on the British side to find out who had disclosed them.
“Contact has been made with the Trump administration, setting out our view that we believe the leak is unacceptable,” Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman told reporters. “It is, of course, a matter of regret that this has happened.”
Trade Minister Liam Fox, who is on a visit to Washington, told BBC radio he would apologise to the president's daughter Ivanka, who he is due to meet. "I will be apologising for the fact that either our civil service or elements of our political class have not lived up to the expectations that either we have or the United States has about their behaviour, which in this particular case has lapsed in a most extraordinary and unacceptable way," he said.
"Malicious leaks of this nature are unprofessional, unethical and unpatriotic and can actually lead to a damage to that relationship which can therefore affect our wider security interest."
The revelations come at a time when Britain is hoping to strike a major trade deal with its closest ally after it leaves the European Union, an exit currently scheduled for Oct 31.
Mr Trump told reporters, of Mr Darroch: "We are not big fans of that man and he has not served the UK well, so I can understand and I can say things about him but I won't bother."
In memos to his government dating from 2017 to the present, Mr Darroch said reports of in-fighting in the White House were "mostly true" and last month described confusion within the administration over Mr 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," Mr Darroch wrote in one memo, according to the Mail on Sunday.
Mr Fox echoed a statement from Britain's Foreign Office that the views Mr Darroch had expressed were not those of the British government itself. Former defence minister Michael Fallon said Mr Darroch's term as ambassador was due to come to an end soon.
"All ambassadors are asked to report all the time, honestly, about the different strengths and weaknesses of the governments they are posted to," he told BBC radio. "It's obviously damaging to any relationship when this sort of stuff gets published."
Ministers said the government did not agree with Mr Darroch, although Mrs May’s spokesman said she had full faith in him.
Foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, one of two men who might replace Mrs May by the end of the month, said: “I have made it clear that I don’t share the ambassador’s assessment of either the US administration or relations with the US administration, but I do defend his right to make that frank assessment.”
He promised “serious consequences” for whoever who had leaked the memos, telling reporters: “What we will not allow to happen is any interruption in the superb relationship that we have the United States, which is our closest ally around the world.”
Mr Nigel Farage, leader of Britain's Brexit Party and long a thorn in the side of British governments, said figures such as Mr Darroch would "not be around" if former foreign minister Boris Johnson, one of two candidates seeking to replace Mrs Theresa May as prime minister, was chosen by Conservative Party members.
However, despite being close to Mr Trump, Mr Farage ruled himself out of becoming Britain's next ambassador to Washington. "I don't think I'm the right man for that job," he told BBC radio.
An inquiry is now being held to determine who was behind the second serious disclosure of confidential material this year. Mrs May’s spokesman said if there was evidence of criminality, then the police would be involved.