Britain on Tuesday dismissed U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s unprecedented expression of support for Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage to be made British ambassador to Washington, saying pointedly that there is no vacancy for the job.
Trump, who after his election victory met Farage before any EU leaders, said on Twitter that “many people” would like to see the former metals trader turned politician as Britain’s ambassador.
“Many people would like to see @Nigel_Farage represent Great Britain as their Ambassador to the United States. He would do a great job!” Trump said.
Prime Minister Theresa May, who congratulated Trump on his victory, was swift to reject such an undiplomatic proposal, with a spokesman saying Britain already had an excellent ambassador to Washington and that London would appoint its own envoys.
“We have first rate ambassador in Washington,” Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who campaigned for Brexit, told the British parliament. “There is no vacancy for that position.”
It is highly unusual in the modern era for leaders to publicly suggest to foreign nations whom they would like to see as ambassador, though during strained relations they sometimes reject or expel envoys.
Trump’s suggestion provoked anger, support and even hilarity in Britain, with one lawmaker, Conservative Simon Burns, joking that perhaps Britain should suggest Hillary Clinton as its preferred choice as ambassador to London.
But the apparent public suggestion about who to appoint as ambassador by the man who will lead Britain’s most powerful ally puts Prime Minister May in a difficult position just as she tries to build ties with Washington ahead of leaving the EU.
London is trying to gauge whether Trump would support a special trade deal with Britain as it negotiates a divorce from the EU. Britain also places great store on what it calls its “special relationship” with the United States.
“MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS”
Farage, who spent decades campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union and helped force former Prime Minister David Cameron to call the June referendum that brought the Brexit vote, spoke at a Trump rally during the U.S. campaign and visited the president-elect after his victory.
As leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and one of the key figures of the successful Brexit campaign, Farage has repeatedly angered EU leaders by predicting the collapse of the EU, which he says is run by an out-of-touch elite of “idiots”.
Farage said Trump’s suggestion that he serve as ambassador had come “like a bolt from the blue” but Trump understood loyalty in a way that those in the “cesspit” of career politics did not.
“I am in a good position with the President-elect’s support to help. The world has changed and it’s time that Downing Street did too,” Farage said in an article written for the Breitbart news website.
“I would do anything to help our national interest and to help cement ties with the incoming Anglophile administration,” Farage said.
A photograph of Trump greeting Farage in front of a gilded elevator shortly after the U.S. election caused consternation in EU capitals, many of whom view Trump with a mixture of fear and puzzlement.
His suggestion of Farage also provoked anger among some British lawmakers.