The UK’s ambassador to the United States, Sir Kim Darroch, has resigned after diplomatic memos he had sent to Whitehall criticising the Trump White House were leaked to the press.
In a letter to the Foreign Office, Darroch said a row over his assessments of the Trump administration had meant he could not stay on in his role.
President Donald Trump had suggested he would no longer deal with Darroch after extracts from memos describing the administration as “uniquely dysfunctional” and “diplomatically clumsy and inept” were published in the Mail on Sunday. On Twitter, Trump called Darroch “a pompous fool” and “very stupid”.
Darroch wrote: "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. 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.”
The ambassador added that although he had been due to stay in his role until the end of the year, “in the current circumstances the responsible course is to allow the appointment of a new ambassador”.
Darroch’s resignation came after former prime minister Sir John Major said this morning he should not be “forced out of his office” over the row.
Appearing on the BBC Today programme this morning, Major said Darroch was “sent to Washington as a very senior – and I may say – respected diplomat, to report his unvarnished views in private to the British government, just as every American ambassador does about our country and every other country.
“Someone extremely malicious has leaked his view – but he was doing, in Washington, precisely and absolutely what he was instructed when he went there, which is to report fairly to the government.”
Major said if Darroch were forced to resign it would not be “good for the morale of the civil service”, adding: “I do not think anybody who does that will endear themselves in obtaining the loyalty of the civil service in the future. Loyalty is a two-way street.”
“The whole of the diplomatic service – which is vital to the interests of this country – will have seen that one of their most senior diplomats was prepared to be thrown to the wolves because of the criticism of a non-British government,” Major said.
“Mr Darroch has not misbehaved. He has behaved exactly as he was expected to behave – indeed, probably instructed to behave. And he deserves the support of the British government.”
In his letter, Darroch said he was grateful to people in the US and UK who had lent him their support “during these difficult few days”.
"This has brought home to me the depth of friendship and close ties between our two countries. I have been deeply touched.
"I am also grateful to all those with whom I have worked over the last four decades, particularly my team here in the US. The professionalism and integrity of the British civil service is the envy of the world. I will leave it full of confidence that its values remain in safe hands."
Foreign Office permanent secretary Sir Simon McDonald said in a tweet that it had been his "reulctant duty" to accept Sir Kim's resignation, adding that those in the FCO had been "lucky to have [him] as a friend and a colleague".
On Monday, McDonald confirmed the Cabinet Office would carry out a "large-scale", government-wide inquiry into how the emails were leaked.
“Although all these emails and details originated from the Foreign Office – from the embassy in Washington – they were distributed across Whitehall so the readership was very wide, so this will be a large-scale inquiry in the first place led by the civil service,” McDonald told the Public Accounts Committee of MPs on Monday