Britain’s ambassador to the US, Sir Kim Darroch, reportedly described Donald Trump as “inept” and at risk of ending his presidency in “disgrace”.
An unprecedented leak of recent official diplomatic cables, reported by the Mail on Sunday, revealed Sir Kim’s frank views on the US leader.
In one excoriating message, seen by the Mail, Sir Kim is said to have written: “We don’t really believe [Trump’s] Administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept.”
The Foreign Office told the Mail that, like all ambassadors, Sir Kim was paid to express his views candidly and that the leak amounted to “mischievous behaviour”.
Nonetheless, the disclosure of highly-sensitive cables between the British embassy in Washington and Downing Street could strain the so-called “special relationship” between the UK and the US.
It also raises questions about leaks at the heart of government and of the morale of the civil service.
The publication of extracts from the cables on Sunday could also prompt a direct response from Trump himself.
Sir Kim, 65, has been Britain’s “man in Washington” since January 2016, ten months before Trump’s election victory. He was previously the UK’s representative to the European Union and a national security advisor.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The British public would expect our ambassadors to provide ministers with an honest, unvarnished assessment of the politics in their country.
“Their views are not necessarily the views of ministers or indeed the Government.
“But we pay them to be candid. Just as the US ambassador here will send back his reading of Westminster politics and personalities.
He added: “Of course we would expect such advice to be handled by ministers and civil servants in the right way, and it’s important that our ambassadors can offer their advice and for it remain confidential.
“Our team in Washington have strong relations with the White House and no doubt… these will withstand such mischievous behaviour.”