Is the UK's special relationship with US under threat? | Inside Story



testing the special relationship the UK's ambassador to the United States resigns in a public Rosen leaked memos as Britain prepares for a new Prime Minister and to leave the European Union how will this affect ties with its closest ally this is Inside Story hello and welcome to the program I'm Marcin Dennis now what started as a leak of secret diplomatic memos to a British tabloid newspaper has led to the resignation of a top ambassador and to questions about the UK's position in the world Kim Derek felt compelled to quit as Britain's man in Washington after a row that swept across the Atlantic the diplomat had described Donald Trump and his administration as insecure inept and dysfunctional in his reports back to London when the contents of those top secret files became public the president responded with a barrage of angry tweets the ambassador was abruptly disinvited from a White House dinner for the Qatari Emir president Trump insulted Derek personally and announced that he could not work with him all of this on Twitter to add to the mix Boris Johnson Britain's likely next prime minister refused to publicly support the ambassador Johnson's critics are angry at how events unfolded we really should stand with our own we send people around the world we expect them to do a particular job we don't throw them under a bus and just because President Trump has thrown a tantrum it does not mean that we don't stand with him you know when you're faced with a bully you stand up to him and frankly that is the sort of thing that Boris Johnson really ought to be doing you know when it comes to this president and frankly I don't think this this bodes well for the sort of Prime Minister that we're likely to get right let's introduce our guests now in London we have Crispin Blount a Conservative member of the British Parliament in Jacksonville Florida we have Nancy Soderberg former deputy national security adviser at the White House and also in London we have Matthew Parris a columnist for The Times newspaper and a former Conservative MP and clerked for Margaret Thatcher at the Foreign Office all of you so very well placed then to discuss today's issue can I start with you though Christine you are at a cricket match in London we're not usually allowed to see you in your sports kit however how would use what would you say are the main issues that have arisen as a result of this incident while people are piling into criticized Boris Johnson without really appreciating the fact that he is going to be the next prime minister he's the odds-on favorite to win the conservative leadership election he has a terrific relationship with Donald Trump in the view of Donald Trump and of course that's at stake if he engaged in I might describe as a conventional way with his issue say he's chosen to say nothing in these circumstances and I think that's probably for him the correct response at this moment sorry sorry Christie should be taken as axiomatic but there is of course support for British diplomats around the world absolutely let me put it to you then a lot of the criticism then that has been pouring out against Boris Johnson and saying that he's he's derived he has no has no loyalty to anyone and that he was prepared to throw this senior diplomat of valuable public servant under the bus but it's that's of course nonsense and it's entirely opportunistic response from people who are campaigning against him on behalf of Jeremy Hunt for the leadership Alan Duncan used that expression a kind of classic colorful Alan Duncan use of use of use of language but the the truth is he hasn't said anything apart from his regard for kim derek once he had resigned and everyone appears to be cheerfully ignoring the fact that Morris is going to be the prime minister on the 24th of July and he brings the table an immense asset for the United Kingdom in terms of the personal relationship with Donald Trump the two things that have brought this issue out is the is the leak which of course is now under subject investigation should never have happened profoundly damaging very difficult to see who benefits from this and of course the sensitivity of Donald Trump and the extraordinary way in which he chooses to communicate and Donald Trump hasn't done himself any favors by the way he's responded to this and he's a issue to manage for all the people around him and the White House as well as other countries we've got to do business with him right I've got to try and find the best way to manage this relationship all right let's go to you Matthew also in London you're shaking your head I presume there for you you don't completely agree with crispy and I mean there are many who are suggesting that this whole incident is bringing into question the issue of sovereignty of Britain's sovereignty of Britain's independence from its bigger ally in this so-called special relationship well it does I can't believe I'm hearing Crispin Blunt saying these things no British Foreign Secretary that I can imagine before this former foreign secretary would have done anything but stand stalwart Lee behind Sir Kim Derrick you you absolutely cannot allow other countries to say who they will and who they won't have as their ambassador that this has been an act of appalling insolent rudeness by the President of the United States it's very insulting to the United Kingdom and all the pro brexit people including Boris Johnson always talking about how we're going to get away from servitude and vassalage from the European Union and then we go buidling to the United States just because Boris Johnson thinks and I doubt whether he's right that he has a special relationship with the president it's it's outrageous absolutely outrageous Matthew there are those who pointed out like crisp in that Britain post brexit is going to be deeply in need of friends and that quite frankly whoever is to leave the United Kingdom most likely Boris Johnson that they need to be prepared to make sure that those alliances affirm no matter what well it is certainly true that brexit is going to put us at the mercy of what friends we have left in the world and that will to some extent include the Americans but if we are to proceed on the basis of a a good deep equal friendship with the United States what we absolutely do not do is allow an erratic president to chuck out our own ambassadors it isn't it isn't the kind of thing that liberal democratic countries who are allies do to each other right coming to you now Nancy in Jacksonville Florida and this so-called special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom has never been one of equals has it and has that relationship do you think being damaged by what effectively many say is the sacking of a top British diplomat by the tweets of the US president the special relationship has gone through bumps in the past and will in the future but remains a rock-solid we need the UK the UK needs us and I don't see this changing that one iota what's unusual about this is that the President of the United States entered the fray if you remember with WikiLeaks we had ambassadors who had to resign our ambassador in Mexico had to resign our ambassador and Libya had to resign but what's unusual about this is the president escalated it to his Twitter account and immediately brought it to the fray where the Ambassador Sir Kim had no choice but to resign now bars pushed him over the edge but it was inevitable that he would resign normally what would have happened is a State Department sort of quietly saying when Boris Johnson comes to power maybe he could have a new ambassador and then Sir Kim would be appointed to a new post now Boris Johnson can make it up to Sir Kim by appointing him to something important when he takes over presumably on at the end of this month but there is no more important diplomatic post than the ambassador to the United States these having worked there myself the most coveted invitation in Washington outside the a state dinner at the White House is dinner at the ambassador's residence we've all played tennis there we have breakfast there lunch and there's it's a key cog in the wheel of diplomacy in Washington and it once the Ambassador loses confidence of the White House and particularly with this White House because the State Department and the rest of the government doesn't speak with authority only president Trump does and so you have to have that in a right circle the minute President Trump up did he had to have rotated out we all thought it would happen a little bit more gracefully and a little bit longer but that's the world of President Trump it changes everything right and Crispin coming back to you I let me quote Peter Ricketts the former head of the Foreign Service of course who called this an act of political sabotage and he asked the question what does this say about the state of our country I'll put it to you again that the the whole issue of of Britain's sovereignty and of its status in that relationship with the United States has now been thrown into disarray as a consequence of this that's not over status there are leaks we've had WikiLeaks in the past this has been s as a particularly toxic leak it shouldn't have happened rative or to see who benefits from this so that's one issue and then that combines with this very unusual certainly emotionally erratic insecure president who communicates in this quite extraordinary undisciplined way and it's those two things that have come together here to create the circumstance and Sir Kim Derrick took the decision that given what President Trump has said about him that him staying on for another five months as the Ambassador with the formal support of the British government probably wasn't going to do anybody any favors and I think he took the correct decision in the wider British interest and I salute him for it okay he's been a magnificent cook career public servant and no one can blame him but that's crispin let me run into piling up but but put everyone then to putt but for then we'll hang on a minute for everyone then to pile in on Boris Johnson because he's in the middle of a leadership election well I think he wisely simply said remember he said nothing he didn't endorse a president Trump's view he didn't then immediately investing heavily in second out who is any difficulty with the president he has already established in Trump's word a very good relationship with the next president of the with the President of the United States as the next prime minister the United Kingdom and he just I think rather wisely chosen these circumstances not for very publicly engaged right I think he made the right choice other people who have who have other reasons and others trying to he made the wrong choice let our other two guests come in I know that Bobby this is none of your to say no see first to you then Tamara knew Nancy what did you have to say by not saying anything he clearly was not endorsing one of Britain's finest diplomats and I think it's important that that's why you have the ruckus and I think that's a fair criticism but the the bigger issue here is that the special relationship is going to be just fine and the what happened is that sir Kim said what everyone in Washington is saying talking to all the other diplomats in Washington they've all written back exactly the same thing so the bigger question is does this hamper how a diplomat can do his job he has to be able to give unvarnished assessments no one's questioning the assessment by the way and the fact that it's now leaked it's important to find out who leaked it why and make sure that we can stem that hemorrhage because no diplomat can do their job if they're at risk of this and every other ambassador in Washington perhaps with the exception of the Iranians and the Chinese are saying exactly the same thing maybe not the Saudis and this is a fine diplomat former national security adviser doing his job and I really hope that the next PM will find a good job for him going on it's just what he deserves this is unfair to him and Matthew is this merely the latest in a long series of rather uncomfortable moments under the Trump presidency with the to the united kingdom he's blown hot and cold it would appear with regard to teresa may and her handling of the brexit process for instance yes he has but he'll always blow hot and cold that's the president indeed Boris blows hot and cold boris has been extremely insulting about president Trump but quite a long time ago what would worry me I take Nancy's point that this could have been should have been quietly done and just without too much fuss in all the fuss that there would be over they coming in of a new prime minister we could have had a new ambassador in Washington but what would that ambassador have gone to Washington thinking thinking that unless he displays almost craven admiration for the President of the United States he's going to incur this president's displeasure and go in the same way as his predecessor has ambassadors have to feel that they are free privately and this was done privately to give governments the unvarnished truth and this is an issue of principle on which as I say any foreign secretary I think would have stood up for circum and Boris didn't right and coming back to you then Crispin this does pose serious questions then about Britain of the future under Boris Johnson Premiership and as to how he's going to conduct his relationship how he's going to manage president Trump you've already suggested that they get on rather well President Trump has intervened hasn't he in the entire debate clearly preferring Boris Johnson as a candidate to lead the country but it's going to be a tricky relationship isn't it for him to manage well any relationship with Donald Trump is a tricky relationship for whoever's managing it because he does blow hot and go lever relationships however warm they will happen to be at the time you never know when they might and they might turn as indeed Teresa may has found out as she's leaving office you know he's then being extremely rude about her conduct of the brexit negotiations criticism I would share I might add but not very politic for the president the United States to say it however we have a very impala tick President of the United States the me that's the problem but the principle problem for the United Kingdom is the confidentiality of our communications it's the leak from those communications that is the issue here for us that's the the practical problem we face were to find out who leaked this and why and how it was allowed to get into the public domain because we will not get candid reporting from our posts overseas if they believe if they're remotely interesting or even simply repeat as this did and what was printed entirely a common understanding of the management of the Trump administration in a diplomatic telegram if that is then going to be spread over the front pages of the newspapers in the way that this was that's that's the problem and actually Boris Johnson is not really the issue issue here is a very unconventional and in politic president and a absolutely grotesque leak of confidential information right and Nancy how is this reverberating in the United States both both within Washington circles and beyond well first of all just let me add one point about Boris Johnson assuming he is going to be the next prime minister I think he's got a huge challenge in managing President Trump I do think they have a good relationship right now and he can use that until he doesn't and the president Trump has no loyalty and the minute he has an issue with force he will turn on him equally quickly so he has to kind of walk on eggshells the Ambassador will follow Boris Johnson's lead the new one but in Washington I think and no one's worried about the special relationship most of us who've been at the senior levels in Washington have spent a lot of time at the UK ambassador's residence that will continue I think what they're more concerned about is what does this do to chill the ability to have frank conversations in Washington I think you'll have less in writing more on secure lines going back and it will chill the ability of diplomats across Washington this probably will not be the last leak it's important to find out who did it but again the special relationship is strong and vibrant and this president is incredibly difficult to make and the diplomatic corps will continue has written about that and will continue to write about that perhaps in more secure communications but I do not envy Boris Johnson's trying to manage the relationship with this very volatile president right on the end now but my prediction is that probably won't last I'm Matthew I suppose one of the most scrutinized first actions of boorish drunks and presuming he does become the next prime minister of the UK will be who he chooses to a point to this a very important position as Britain's ambassador to Washington he will be scrutinized won't he be for every kind of nuance in terms of the appointment oh yes yes unless I've missed something in the last hour or two then we shouldn't rule out the possibility that the present Prime Minister Teresa may in her dying days so to speak will herself appoint a new ambassador she she could do that David Cameron appointed our ambassador to France in the last days of his prime ministership but if it is Boris well everybody knows that Nigel Faraj would actually like to be ambassador to the United States however much he professes that he wouldn't I do hope Boris wouldn't do anything as stupid as that I just threw in one thought I heard the head of the Foreign Office tell members of parliament that this leak couldn't have come from the Americans because he said we do not spy on each other I certainly hope that's not true I would be very surprised if the Americans had no capability to intercept British telegram traffic and Donald Trump himself has an interest in the upsetting overthrowing and asting of this of this ambassador Wright and Crispin coming back to you with that point then because whoever whoever did whoever was behind this leak must've had some sort of political motive a political game plan what sort of game plan do you think it was it was I mean this was these were cables that were from 2017 s are quite old and then they were released to a well newspaper supporting the brexit process well that's um that's of course the most important question and one that is most difficult to answer because this ambassador only had five months left to serve so why would if it was the Americans who were the source of this all some people who face it to Donald Trump why on earth would they do it to take all that risk for such little reward in terms of getting a a new appointment in the circumstances that have happened so I that doesn't make too much sense and that's the question everyone's trying to work out he's who gains by this it's really a disaster a serious handicap now sue candor in future reporting back right Nancy yeah it's it's highly unlikely this came from the United States we don't spy on each other that's been a long-standing relationship issue and I I'm not in the government right now but I would be shocked if that had changed and I think this is clearly some somewhere within the UK system but trying to decide who leaked things is a parlor game in Washington that always fails until there's a real investigation it's never who you really think it is and we had the leak and Valerie Plame's CIA identity and everyone thought it was someone in the White House turns out it was rich Armitage in the State Department and I think we'll be surprised in the end of who in the UK system did this it could have been another government as well there are other governments certainly do spy on the UK but not the US so we will certainly find out I believe who was the leaker here and that will hopefully be the end of it that we ought to stem that leak and plug it but it will provide a chill throughout the diplomatic corps there isn't a diplomat in Washington right now that isn't saying all right who could possibly leak our maybe our communications maybe I shouldn't put that in writing I'll just pick up the line on the secure phone which tend to be actually fairly secure and I think it will chill the work of Washington but the bigger challenge here I think isn't the leak so much as what is the UK's role in the post brexit world will they actually have brakes and now president Trump has told Teresa may and has been tweeting about it that he told Teresa may how to exit and get a deal for the brexit he didn't listen to her that's her problem he's going to give the same advice to Boris Johnson now it is not a given that Boris Johnson will bring about effective exit from brexit the minute he doesn't do that and it's clear that he's failed on that Trump will have the same relationship with him they're ideologically aligned right now they even got the same wild hair the same brash personality but if force doesn't deliver on brexit which President Trump fully supports he's going to lose his confidence and where's his plan how is it going to be different than Teresa Mays to me that's the question before the British people and frankly it's a deep concern to the United States we have a do-over referendum we're running out of power force handles that is the key question sorry to jump in Nancy but we are running out of time I'd like to give the final word to Matthew because of course the British public generally will have no say in who becomes the next prime minister of the UK but we're getting an idea are we of what a Boris Johnson Premiership will look like give us your ideas your take on that within 40 seconds if you can Matthew yes I think he'll be buffeted in all directions I don't think he'll be brave I don't think he'll have a very clear idea where he wants to go or what he wants to do and the last person to speak to him will likely be the most powerful person in the in the United Kingdom if he has buckled so quickly on this what else could he not buckle on right okay thank you all very much indeed Crispin Blount in his cricket gear talking to us from London Nancy Soderberg talking to us from Jacksonville Florida and Matthew Paris also talking to us from London thank you all very much indeed for a really interesting conversation and as ever thank you for watching you can see the programme again anytime you like I going to the website aljazeera.com should you want more discussion you can go to our Facebook page facebook.com forward slash AG Inside Story and there's always the Twittersphere as you well know our handle is at AJ inside story I'm at Martine Dennis for me and the whole team here in Doha is bye for now you

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. A very poor decision to put Darroch in as ambassador. Impossible to fill an effective role as a diplomat if your mind is closed and you despise the countries leader. it was rightly offensive to the US President, he deserves better and so does both countries.

  2. Yes lets fill the news with "Special Relationship" Lets ignore that this is the second high security leak in as many months But its all under control. Maybe what less important is the vote to just leave the special relationship with Europe Because is what the people of Britain wanted lol

  3. What special relationship, … the one where members of British government and intelligence took part in the effort to rig the United States 2016 presidential election, and the FRAMING of our duly elected President, in an effort to illegally unseat our President, .. is that the "special relationship" you are talking about?

  4. The yellow killer clown 🤡 ruins all his relationships.
    A normal sane person would never insult their host after three weeks of accepting their hospitality which is what this yellow killer clown did.

  5. British ambassador sir Kim Darroch was undiplomatic in his statement and assessment, to say the least.
    It is very surprising given that he was a top diplomat.

  6. Trump is one of the greatest presidents in USA history, most people don't have the vision of Trump. The ambassador is a dummy and he should never has been appointted.

  7. You poms can dish it out but cant take it- your pathetic and deserve to stay in that United States of Europe- don't expect America to come running the next time your in a spot of bother- from Australia

  8. I think the United Kingdom can mind its business without the USA . The USA has become the arrogant bully boy of the Anglo-American world. It is very clever in losing friends while the United Kingdom is clever in making friends.

  9. Darroch spoke out of turn. Trump had every right to speak out against him. Darroch was NOT sacked. He did the right thing to stand down. Johnson was also right to hold his silence.

  10. President Trump on Boris Johnson to be the next President of the UK so he has the same looking brother with the same hair do in UK so they can telepathicly rules there country

  11. British liberals are bit out of touch with the reality of the world. The US and UK has an very strong relationship. But one is significantly bigger than other.

  12. Let's not worry about anyone who can take early and comfortable retirement and forget the less fortunate in society. Civil servants don't have to perform or deliver they just turn up to work. I challenge the assertion Britain has good diplomats. Why did we join the Yanks in Iraq? They are silent cowards when it suits them and brave louts when under pressure.

  13. When asked by Mrs Thatcher if Reagan would help stop Yanks funding the IRA, the answer was NO. How special was that?

  14. Having a strong personal relationship with a foreign head of state isn't a good replacement for political acumen. The notion that Boris Johnson can make up for not standing up for effectively the most basic expression of the UK's sovereignty (the state's authority to choose its representatives to other nation-states) by being friendly with the President of the US is beyond absurd and should in its own right disqualify Johnson.

    The message is that the UK's sovereignty is less important than being a loyal lapdog of the United States.

    These are the same lapdogs who are always barking about independence from Europe.

  15. Well, well the British always are right. (Diplomacy is English birthright). But as it is said there are two sides to each story.

    The ambassador is 100% convinced that President Trump is a total basket case. And official London agrees with the ambassador's assessment. Of course the only problem is that ambassador's work was exposed. (Since the ambassador didn't agree with Trump's administration he should have resigned the day he reached that conclusion. The way it turned out, his function became spying. And the British call these spying actions DIPLOMACY?).

    On the other hand million upon million of Americans and other people around the world are totally convinced that Donald Trump, the President is super great. As for myself I always liked Donald Trump. Donald the skier, glamorous, successful, surrounded with beautiful women. I jumped on Trump Train on Day One. As it is said blood is thicker than water. And myself being of Slavic origin and because Donald married into great Slavic women, who gave him great children, Donald has become part of the Slavic family.

    The President stated that during his recent visit to Britain he had good relations with the Great Queen. The Queen that is respected and like by many of us. On the other hand the British Diplomats should realize that the days of Rule Britannia have ended at the conclusion of WW 2.

    Riding the trump Train a Slavic Canadian.

  16. More than half the American people are questioning the assessment. Maybe you need to get more sleep, because your mentality seems to be struggling.

  17. The Ambassador was representing the European Union in Washington. British Taxpayers should ask for their money back.

  18. A British spy was working with Hillary Clinton to help her get elected,Can America trust the British Government..?

  19. Trump did ridiculous things, but most of the times, he ridiculously got what he wanted. That is crazy but lesson to be learn.

  20. During the colonization era in early 1900, the British were considered a global superpower with many colonies. However, after WWII, the U.S. and Russia emerged as the superpowers. Now China is emerging as the 3rd superpower,
    and India will be the next (both China and India are already building aircraft carriers) What is the status of the former British Empire now? Well, it is "An errant boy" of the United States, or it is nothing!" In short: "Great Britain has lost its global status to the rise of Russia, China, and India as global powers, and try to stay relevant by begging to be an "errand boy" of the U.S. global adventures – or slip into a global political oblivion. Nikos Retsos, professor of political sciences (Retired) USA.

  21. Johnson will be the worst American poodle than Tony Blaire to the Americans and like Tony Blair , he will send the children of the poor to a war of disaster

  22. When the United States was exposed by wiki leaks spying on its "Allies" and other damning emails, they didn't like it at all. Now the shoe is on the other foot, their President is throwing his toys out of the pram………

  23. So: the ambassador did his job reporting as he found things. Being a diplomat and wanting to foster good relations he did not make his reports public. His work got leaked and now he is in firing line? Most stupid thing ever. UK now looks incompetent and dysfunctional. Stand by your citizens or what are you good for??

  24. Poor snowflake Trump. He is clumsy and inept. The guy was making a clear-eyed assessment. Donny just has a difficult relationship with the truth.

  25. America DOES NOT need GB…It appears that GB, and other 5 Eyes nations (formerly America's strongest allies), participated in a Coup attempt. If so and it is proved, America should cut all ties with them. The last times GB did something like this they burned down our White House- that didn't go so well.

  26. He has to walk on egg shells,
    Haha! Work with that joker call trump.
    Mathew spoke the truth and very straight forward answer.

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