Boris Johnson claimed tonight he would be ‘robust’ in confronting Donald Trump if he became prime minister after a full-scale diplomatic crisis between the UK and the US.
The Tory leadership favourite also gave his ‘full support’ to Sir Kim Darroch the day after the ambassador to Washington quit over leaked messages in which he branded the president ‘inept’.
Mr Johnson, whose failure to back Sir Kim clearly in a televised debate on Tuesday led to claims it had sparked his resignation, said the veteran diplomat had been the victim of an ‘unpleasant stunt’.
Asked at a Tory leadership hustings in Maidstone, Kent about his relationship with the American leader he said he had criticised him in the past over policies like global warming and the Iran nuclear deal.
Mr Johnson also cited criticism he levelled at New Yorker Mr Trump in 2015, in which he said the then businessman had showed ‘quite stupefying ignorance’ in comments about London.
‘We were robust … and we will continue to be robust,’ he told the audience in Maidstone tonight.
Asked at a Tory leadership hustings in Maidstone, Kent about his relationship with the prickly American leader he said he had criticised him in the past over policies like global warming and the Iran nuclear deal
Mr Johnson also cited criticism he levelled at New Yorker Mr Trump in 2015, in which he said the then businessman had showed ‘quite stupefying ignorance’ in comments about London
Regarding his past criticism of Mr Trump, Mr Johnson said the president was ‘a man who can deal with that sort of thing’.
Rudd drops No Deal opposition – paving way to serve in Boris Johnson’s Cabinet
Amber Rudd today appeared to drop her opposition to No Deal Brexit – potentially paving the way to stay in a Boris Johnson Cabinet.
Mr Johnson has insisted if he becomes PM all ministers must be willing to sign up to leaving the bloc by Halloween ‘come what may’.
Work and Pensions Secretary Ms Rudd, who has been backing Jeremy Hunt for Tory leader, has previously been seen as one of the strongest opponents of No Deal.
But in an interview with TalkRadio today she said: ‘Both candidates have said that no deal is part of the armory and the negotiations going forward.
‘And I have accepted that, um, that the situation is that we are leaving by the end of October.
‘But it would be so much better to get a deal.’
She added: ‘What we really need is for everybody’s effort to go into trying to get a deal and that as we know, isn’t as straight forward as we would like it to be because the prime minister has tried on several occasions to do that.’
Mr Johnson added that he spoke to Sir Kim yesterday, and ‘said how much I regretted his resignation’.
Asked about suggestions he had thrown Sir Kim ‘under a bus’, Mr Johnson said: ‘There has certainly been an attempt to politicise this issue and to take the career prospects of Sir Kim and turn them into an issue in the Conservative Party leadership contest, I notice that.
‘I don’t think that should happen … I don’t think that issues of personnel in our civil service should become footballs in political conversation.’
The US President is a fan of Boris Johnson, and appears to favour him being the next PM.
He said recently: ‘I like Boris Johnson a lot. He’s a friend of mine.’
But in 2015 Mr Johnson lashed out at the politician after he claimed parts of the UK capital were ‘so radicalised the police are afraid of their lives’, as he began his run for the White House.
Mr Johnson, the London mayor at the time, responded by saying: ‘As a city where more than 300 languages are spoken, London has a proud history of tolerance and diversity and to suggest there are areas where police officers cannot go because of radicalisation is simply ridiculous.’
‘Crime has been falling steadily both in London and in New York – the only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.’
Mr Trump posed with supporters including with Maidstone and The Weald MP Helen Grant (left) as he arrived at the hustings in her constituency
Asked about suggestions he had thrown Sir Kim ‘under a bus’, Mr Johnson said: ‘I don’t think that issues of personnel in our civil service should become footballs in political conversation’
Mr Johnson added that he spoke to Sir Kim yesterday, and ‘said how much I regretted his resignation’
Asked whether his comments on a ‘forthcoming election’ during the head-to-head TV debate with Jeremy Hunt pointed to a snap election, Boris Johnson said: ‘No, of course not.
‘There will be, eventually, an election in 2022. But before then what we must do is get our great party ready again, we must fill our coffers flush with cash and we must put out – once again – with greater power and clarity and conviction, our belief in modern, one-nation conservatism.’
‘It is impossible to continue’: Sir Kim’s resignation letter
Sir Kim’s (pictured) position came under further pressure after Mr Johnson, the Tory leadership front runner, repeatedly refused to back him in Tuesday’s televised debate
In a letter to the head of the Foreign Office, Sir Simon McDonald, Sir Kim said he believed it was ‘impossible’ for him to carry on in his current role – but said he had been deeply touched by those who had ‘offered him support’. In a somewhat emotional response, Sir Simon thanked the life-long civil servant for acting with ‘dignity, professionalism and class.’
Sir Kim’s letter: ‘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,’ he said.
‘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.
‘Although my posting is not due to end until the end of this year, I believe in the current circumstances the responsible course is to allow the appointment of a new ambassador.
Sir Kim added he was ‘grateful’ to those in the UK and the US who have offered him support during what he has described as 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’.
In his reply to Sir Kim, Sir Simon said he was accepting his resignation with ‘deep personal regret’.
‘Over the last few difficult days you have behaved as you have always behaved over a long and distinguished career, with dignity, professionalism and class,’ he said.
‘The Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and whole of the public service have stood with you: you were the target of a malicious leak; you were simply doing your job. I understand your wish to relieve the pressure on your family and your colleagues at the embassy; I admire the fact that you think more of others than yourself. You demonstrate the essence of the values of British public service.’
Boris Johnson ‘chuckles’ at Trump tweets branding May’s premiership ‘a disaster’ before saying: ‘I find it hard to disagree’
Boris Johnson today backed Donald Trump on Brexit and ‘chuckled’ at his tweets slamming Theresa May saying: ‘I find it hard to disagree’.
The favourite to be the next Prime Minister refused to ‘stick up’ for Mrs May when confronted with the US President’s claims she had been a ‘disaster’ in negotiations with the EU.
Mr Trump this week attacked the PM, accusing her of ignoring his advice and ‘going her own foolish way’ on Brexit.
When read the incendiary tweets yesterday Mr Johnson reportedly ‘chuckled’ and said: ‘I can’t dissent from that’.
He added in an interview with Politico: ‘When it comes to the context of what the president has said about the Brexit deal, I find it hard to disagree’.
Mr Johnson (pictured campaigning in Dover today) read the incendiary tweets from Mr Trump about Theresa May and reportedly ‘chuckled’ and said: ‘I can’t dissent from that’.
Boris Johnson (pictured on the campaign trail in Stoke Park, Bucks, today) has sided with Donald Trump on Brexit and laughed at his tweets calling Theresa May’s Brexit a ‘disaster’
Theresa May (pictured today) went ;her own foolish way’ on Brexit, Mr Trump said
Trump’s tweets on May appeared to make Boris laugh – but he has said he believes the abuse of Sir Kim Darroch was wrong
Sir Kim’s decision to quit represents a major win for Donald Trump (pictured shaking hands with Sir Kim together at an event at Capitol Hill). The US President said this week he would no longer do business with him
But he did appear to disagree on Mr Trump’s treatment of Sir Kim Darroch, who he branded ‘wacky’, ‘very stupid’ and ‘a pompous fool’.
Boris on Brexit, Trump, May, booze and losing more weight
Boris Johnson’s wide-ranging interview with Politico revealed his views on a range of subjects.
– On Trump’s claim that May’s Brexit has been a ‘disaster’: ‘I can’t dissent from that. He has strong views about Brexit and he has strong views about the deal. If you ask me whether I think the Brexit negotiations have been brilliantly handled, I don’t think so’.
– On not backing Sir Kim Darroch on ITV: ‘I think it’s totally, totally wrong to drag the career prospects of a civil servant into a political debate. If Donald Trump can make friends with Kim Jong Un, then he can make friends with Kim Dar-roch’
On the Brexit Party: ‘They [the EU] have now got 29 Brexit MEPs in the European Parliament. I’m not certain they want to have Ann Widdecombe lecturing them about their deficiencies’.
On the the EU: ‘I had great friends in Brussels, I had great relations with people around the table at the European Council. They know we are serious’
On his favorite red wine: ‘Someone bought me a crate of it, and I had no idea how expensive it was. I was just, you know, glugging it back. And it turned out that it’s literally £180 a bottle. It’s extraordinary stuff. But I mean it was delicious. I discovered later that it was the favorite wine of Meghan Markle’
On getting in shape: ‘I’ve got to lose weight. I need to get back on the treadmill. My bike is now a pathetic object propped up against the railings of Portcullis House’.
He was accused of ‘throwing him under the bus’ on Tuesday night during the ITV leadership debate where he refused to say if he backed him to stay in Washington. Sir Kim reportedly was watching and it contributed to his decision to quit.
Mr Johnson said: ‘I think most people feel. I don’t want anybody else telling us what to do. Or anybody else criticising our government, I suppose is my feeling. But if you ask me whether I think the Brexit negotiations have been brilliantly handled, I don’t think so’.
He added: ‘If Donald Trump can make friends with Kim Jong Un, then he can make friends with Kim Dar-roch’.
The US President is a fan of Boris Johnson, and appears to favour him being the next PM.
He said recently: ‘I like Boris Johnson a lot. He’s a friend of mine.’
Mr Johnson met with in a pub with Politico’s Jack Blanchard yesterday for a rare interview as the Tory leadership campaign reaches a crescendo with Jeremy Hunt trailing in the polls.
When asked if he already had a foot through the Downing Street he said: ‘Well, we’re not measuring the curtains’ – before moving the conversation on.
During the interview Boris was offered a pint of lager but said he was a ‘wine man’ – and revealed that his favourite tipple is a Italian red wine called called Tignanello, a favorite of the Duchess of Sussex.
He said: ‘Someone bought me a crate of it, and I had no idea how expensive it was, and I was just, you know, glugging it back. And it turned out that it’s literally £180 a bottle. It’s extraordinary stuff. But I mean it was delicious’.
He added: ‘I discovered later that it was the favorite wine of Meghan Markle. I discovered it by Googling. I was so amazed by this wine, I thought — what is this stuff? And it said it was Meghan Markle’s favorite.’
Boris said he had given up booze for six weeks and struggled at parties where friends were drinking.
He added: ‘I’ve got to lose weight. I need to get back on the treadmill … My bike is now a pathetic object propped up against the railings of Portcullis House’.
Mr Johnson, pictured kissing a supporter in Dover, Kent, this afternoon has spoken out on Trump and May in an interview with Politico today
The Duchess of Sussex was spotted giving Archie a kiss on his forehead as she cradled him at the polo yesterday as Boris Johnson says they share a love of the same red wine
Britain’s ambassador to the US fired a parting blast at Boris Johnson last night after quitting his post.
Diplomatic sources said Sir Kim Darroch used a phone call with the Tory leadership favourite to tell him that his refusal to support him in his row with Donald Trump was ‘a factor’ in his shock decision to quit.
And Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan yesterday accused Mr Johnson of throwing the ambassador ‘under the bus’ to further his own political ambitions.
Sir Kim had come under intense pressure this week after President Trump reacted furiously to leaked diplomatic cables in which he described the US President as ‘inept’.
In an astonishing series of tweets, Mr Trump branded Sir Kim a ‘pompous fool’ and effectively severed relations with him.
In a vengeful decision, the President ordered the White House to cut off all contact, leaving the British ambassador barred from official events.
Sir Kim is said to have accepted that the row had dealt a fatal blow to his ability to do his job.
In a personal letter on Tuesday, Theresa May urged him to stay on, saying that it was up to London, not the White House, to decide who represented the UK’s interests in Washington.
Friends said Sir Kim initially accepted the plea but decided he had to go after Mr Johnson refused to back him during a live TV debate with leadership rival Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday night.
Mr Johnson said Mr Trump’s response was ‘not necessarily the right thing to do’, but said he had been ‘dragged into a British political debate’. He refused four times to say whether Sir Kim should keep his job, saying it would be ‘presumptuous’ to give an opinion while the race for Number 10 was still under way.
Mr Johnson telephoned Sir Kim yesterday to ‘express regret’ at the ambassador’s decision. One source close to Mr Johnson said the ambassador reassured him he was not to blame.
But a friend of Sir Kim said: ‘Boris Johnson’s comments were not the only factor that persuaded him to resign, but they were a factor. Kim was clear about that in his conversation with Boris.’
In his resignation letter, Sir Kim said: ‘The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like.’
After learning of Sir Kim’s resignation, Mr Johnson expressed his regret, describing him as a ‘superb diplomat’ with whom he had worked with for many years.
But his comments were dismissed as ‘insincere guff’ by Sir Alan – a long-standing critic of the former foreign secretary – who said he had deliberately failed to give Sir Kim his support during Tuesday night’s TV debate.
‘For someone who wants to lead, let alone unite, the country, that was contemptible negligence on his part,’ he said. ‘He has basically thrown this fantastic diplomat under the bus to serve his own personal interests.’
Boris Johnson, Sen Bob Corker and Kim Darroch in 2017 when the PM favourite was Foreign Secretary
Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan branded Mr Johnson an ‘utter wimp’, while Foreign Affairs Committee chief Tom Tugendhat said true leaders ‘defend’ their people
Last night Mr Johnson dismissed Sir Alan’s claims, telling The Sun: ‘I can’t believe they’re trying to blame me for this. It seems bizarre to me. I’m a great supporter of Kim’s. I spoke to him just now to offer my good wishes.’
When asked why he did not support Sir Kim during Tuesday night’s debate, Mr Johnson said he ‘didn’t think it was right to drag public servants’ careers into the [political] arena this way’.
He added: ‘I thought it was most odd that the career of particular servant should suddenly become a test case within a TV debate.’ Last night officials revealed that the police could be called in to find the mole who leaked the diplomatic cables.
Whitehall sources said Mrs May was furious about Sir Kim’s ousting and was considering appointing a successor in her last two weeks in office in order to deny Mr Johnson the chance to pick his own candidate.
But last night, allies of Mr Johnson warned Mrs May that she must not ‘tie the hands’ of her successor. Julian Lewis, the Tory chairman of the defence select committee, told The Daily Telegraph she should resist the ‘temptation for an outgoing prime minister to appoint to a plum job one of her inner circle’. Arch-Brexiteer Steve Baker told The Times: ‘It is absolutely vital that our ambassador is able to make a strong, heartfelt case for our future status as a trading nation and work with Congress.
‘With all that in mind a new ambassador must be appointed by the new prime minister. It would be totally unacceptable in such circumstances to tie the future prime minister’s hands.’
There was also speculation that Sir Kim could be rewarded with a peerage in recognition of his 42-year diplomatic career. And Mr Johnson faced the prospect of a civil service revolt over his perceived willingness to sacrifice Sir Kim to appease President Trump.
Dave Penman, head of the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, said: ‘Johnson and his allies have sent the clearest signal possible to Sir Kim, the diplomatic corps, the wider civil service and, unfortunately, to foreign governments: that civil servants’ professional, impartial advice is needed, but they are ultimately expendable if it proves politically expedient.’
Downing Street said yesterday that officials had held ‘initial discussions’ with the police about whether the leak inquiry could become a criminal investigation.
Boris Johnson ‘has already won’ Tory leadership battle with poll finding 77% of activists have now voted – and 72% back him over Jeremy Hunt
Boris Johnson has already won the Tory leadership contest, according to a poll today – with three quarters of activists now having cast their votes.
A survey for the grassroots ConservativeHome website found the overwhelming majority have sent in their postal votes.
Some 72 per cent also said they had either backed or planned to back Mr Johnson – suggesting he already has an unassailable lead with two weeks to go until the result it announced.
Jeremy Hunt has admitted he is the underdog in the contest to replace Theresa May, but vowed to fight to the end.
He mounted an all-out assault on Mr Johnson in a TV debate earlier this week as he desperate struggles to overhaul his advantage – mocking him for refusing to answer questions and questioning his ‘do or die’ pledge to force Brexit by the end of October.
In the ConHome survey, some 72 per cent also said they had either backed or planned to back Mr Johnson – suggesting he is on track for a landslide victory when the result is announced in two weeks’ time
Mt Hunt joked today that he considered voting for his rival so it ‘doesn’t look so bad for him’
However, the attacks do not seem to be making a significant dent in Mr Johnson’s popularity with members.
An ORB poll for the Telegraph today could give him another boost – as it suggests the Tories could regain 92 per cent of the voters they have lost to Nigel Farage if Brexit happens by the Halloween deadline.
Tories would regain backing of almost all activists who defected to Farage if Brexit happens by Halloween
The Tories will regain almost all of their members who defected to support The Brexit Party if the next prime minister sticks to the October 31 deadline for leaving the EU, a new poll suggests.
The Conservatives were absolutely hammered at the European elections as Tories ditched the party in their droves to back Nigel Farage’s new political vehicle.
But a new survey shows that Conservative Party members are ready to ditch Mr Farage and return home if the next prime minister delivers Brexit on time.
However, the poll also acts as a drastic warning to would-be prime ministers Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt as it shows almost half of Tory members will vote for someone else if Brexit is delayed again.
The poll shows just how important delivering Brexit by the current deadline is for the next leader of the Conservative Party.
Failure to meet the Halloween divorce date would seemingly have major ramifications for the future electoral viability of the party.
But the challenge faced by Mr Johnson was underlined last night when Chancellor Philip Hammond signalled he will be a ‘nightmare’ over no-deal Brexit.
Mr Hammond insisted he would use the Commons backbenches to ‘vigorously’ battle any attempt at withdrawing from the EU without a deal.
Asked if he would jump before he was pushed if Mr Johnson takes the Tory crown in two weeks’ time, Mr Hammond told ITV’s Peston: ‘My expectation is that I will not be serving in the next administration.
‘But, I want to say this because I read some stuff in the papers earlier this week about how I would be a nightmare on the backbenches.
‘I will continue to argue vigorously against a no-deal Brexit.
‘And I will certainly do everything I can to prevent a no-deal Brexit without parliamentary approval.’
The pointed comments came after Mr Johnson was put on notice to expect a legal battle with former prime minister Sir John Major if he tries to suspend Parliament in order to force through a no-deal Brexit.
Former Conservative leader Sir John said it would be ‘utterly and totally unacceptable’ for any British premier to shut down Parliament, and he would seek a judicial review if it happened.
Mr Johnson dismissed Sir John’s ‘very odd’ threat of being dragged through the courts, insisting that Parliament should accept its responsibility to deliver Brexit.
But he has refused to rule out proroguing Parliament to prevent MPs blocking a no-deal exit from the European Union on October 31.
Jeremy Hunt (pictured out running in London today) has admitted he is the underdog in the contest to replace Theresa May, but vowed to fight to the end
The Tory leadership campaign front runner said: ‘What we are going to do is deliver Brexit on October 31, which is what I think the people of this country want us to get on and do.
‘I think everybody is fed up with delay and I think the idea of now consecrating this decision to the judiciary is really very, very odd indeed.
‘What we want is for Parliament to take their responsibilities, get it done as they promised that they would.
‘They asked the British people whether they wanted to leave in 2016, the British people returned a very clear verdict, so let’s get it done.’
Mr Hammond said: ‘I think there is a group of members of Parliament who feel very, very strongly about this.
‘If anyone were foolish enough to try to prorogue Parliament then I’m sure there will be action in the courts.
‘We would have to challenge it.
‘The idea that elected members of Parliament would be locked out of their place of work because they might do their job is truly shocking.’
Asked if a no-deal Brexit would be similar to the financial crisis of 2008, the Chancellor said: ‘It could be.’
In order to prorogue Parliament, shutting it down until the next state opening, a prime minister would have to ask the Queen to formally allow it.
Although the Queen’s decision could not be challenged, Sir John said the advice of the prime minister could be.
The potential suspension of Parliament was one of the issues on which Mr Johnson and his rival Jeremy Hunt clashed in a televised showdown on Tuesday night.
Who is Sir Kim Darroch, the veteran diplomat who has just quit as Britain’s man in Washington?
Sir Kim was handed one of the most prestigious jobs in the diplomatic service several months before Donald Trump’s shock ascendancy to the White House.
But his name soon rose to prominence in the public arena after the president’s election victory – when Mr Trump promptly called for Nigel Farage to be the UK’s man in Washington instead.
In a highly unusual intervention, the president declared in a late-night tweet that Mr Farage would do a ‘great job’ and that ‘many people’ wanted to see him as the UK’s ambassador in the US.
Number 10 was forced to insist there was ‘no vacancy’ and praised Sir Kim for being an ‘excellent ambassador’.
In his first interview after the controversy, Sir Kim hailed Mr Trump’s ‘historic and impressive’ election victory and called the so-called special relationship between the US and the UK ‘stronger than ever’.
The diplomat had earlier hit the headlines when, shortly after Mr Trump’s election win, the Sunday Times reported on a secret memo in which Sir Kim apparently suggested the UK could exploit Mr Trump’s character and inexperience in office.
The memo said: ‘The president-elect is above all an outsider and unknown quantity, whose campaign pronouncements may reveal his instincts, but will surely evolve and, particularly, be open to outside influence if pitched right.
‘Having, we believe, built better relationships with his team than have the rest of Washington diplomatic corps, we should be well placed to do this.’
In the latest leaked memos, dated from 2017 to the present, Sir Kim described Mr Trump’s White House as ‘uniquely dysfunctional’ and ‘inept’.
But in an interview with the Financial Times last year, the diplomat gave the president a more ringing endorsement, saying: ‘I have met him seven or eight times and always found him to be absolutely charming.’
Sir Kim is considered something of a veteran in the diplomatic arena, with a career spanning three decades.
Prior to taking on the role of UK ambassador to the US in January 2016, the 65-year-old served as national security adviser to former prime minister David Cameron.
He was secretary of the National Security Council until September 2015 and led on issues such as the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Russian aggression in Ukraine, the nuclear threat from Iran and the collapse of government authority in Libya.
Between 2007 and 2011 he served in Brussels as the UK Permanent Representative to the European Union, representing UK interests in areas such as the aftermath of the financial crisis and the issues around European integration.
He joined the diplomatic service in 1977 after graduating from Durham University with a degree in zoology.