Theresa May is facing a Cabinet backlash today following her description of Nigel Farage as an ‘irrelevance’ just hours before he became the first British politician to meet President-Elect Donald Trump.
Farage’s easy access to Trump provoked tension among Tories amid suggestions he could become an official intermediary for Downing Street as it strikes a relationship with the next incumbent of the White House.
On Friday, a Number 10 source denied to the BBC claims the government lacked contacts with Trump’s team. They added that Farage was an “irrelevance” and claimed Trump foresaw a close relationship between the US and the UK.
Yet after spending more than an hour with the president-elect on Saturday, the interim Ukip leader insisted the prime minister should stop running him down and instead use his closeness to the tycoon-turned-next US head of state to “put the national interest first”.
Farage told the BBC: “The problem is that No 10 keep on putting out press statements saying that I’m irrelevant. I would have thought that in the national interest I might just be able to broker a coming together of these parties that don’t know each other at all.”
The provocative intervention came after the president-elect’s invitation to Farage to become the first British politician to visit him at Trump Tower in New York sparked infighting among prominent Tories.
One cabinet source told The Daily Telegraph that Downing Street “had no plan” for a Trump victory despite claims that UK government officials had met with Trump’s team.
And after No 10 insisted the outgoing Ukip chief would have “no role” in the Government’s dealings with the incoming US administration, Tory peer, and former trade envoy, Lord Marland said Downing Street should use Farage as a “salesman”.
Marland said: “Anything we can do at any level to rebuild that relationship will be to Britain’s advantage, and if Farage happens to be one of the people who encourages that relationship then so be it.”
The Times reported that some inside Whitehall believe No 10 was too hasty to dismiss Farage and his potential role in building links with Trump.
The view was in marked contrast to prominent Tory Crispin Blunt who insisted “there is no need for Nigel” in Downing Streets’s dealings with the new US administration.
After pulling off the political coup of spending time with Trump as he put together his new administration, Farage hinted ministers are sounding him out about dealing with the president-elect as he revealed the Republican victor’s close advisers have “reservations” about Theresa May’s government.
Asked if he had contact with Cabinet figures regarding his close ties to the incoming president, Farage told Sky News: “I am not going to go into whatever private phone calls I may, or may not, have had with individual ministers.”
Farage disclosed that members of the president-elect’s inner circle were concerned about unflattering comments made by British Cabinet ministers, though Trump told him he had a “nice” phone call with May.
Farage told the Daily Telegraph: “He said he had a nice conversation, although some of his team had reservations about what members of the Cabinet have said during the election. Believe you me, his team are conscious of the comments.”
The pair met at Trump Tower in New York and spent over an hour discussing the president-elect’s victory, global politics and the status of Brexit, Ukip told the Press Association.
Farage used US media appearances to warn May that she needed to “mend fences” with Trump after the “quite rude” things said about him by leading Tories.
On Monday, Farage tweeted to say he could help the UK government mend fences in its relationship with Trump.