Trump’s First International Diplomatic Incident

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–November 22, 2016

By Lib Dem FoP

Nigel Farage poses with Donald Trump after spending an hour with him following his election win 

Nigel Farage poses with Donald Trump after spending an hour with him following his election win  Credit: Nigel Farage

Trump has caused his first diplomatic incident with an ally through his failure to understand international relations and how they are conducted. Last night (2 am London time) Trump tweeted:

Many people would like to see @Nigel_Farage represent Great Britain as their Ambassador to the United States. He would do a great job!

Farage is the interim leader of UKIP, a party with one M.P. in the Commons and a Member of the European Parliament. British diplomatic appointments are not made on a political basis. The BBC’s North American correspondent explains why this is causing consternation in Downing Street and diplomatic circles:

The future head of state of one nation telling another country who they should appoint as their ambassador is unusual enough; when it is two nations that are meant to share a special relationship it is a breach of nearly every rule of diplomatic protocol.

At a stroke it puts tension into the Trump/Theresa May relationship before they have even met.

The prime-minister’s office can say no more than it has full confidence in the current ambassador.

It also leaves the current holder of the post, Sir Kim Darroch, in an awkward position as he seeks to forge closer contacts with the new administration. His position has been undermined by the future president.

Appointments as Her Majesty’s Ambassador to other countries are not politically based and are not subject to the vagaries of changes of politics. The most important posts are always held by highly experienced career diplomats. The current Ambassador to the United States, appointed from January this year,  is Sir Nigel “Kim” Darroch KCMG who joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1976. He last two posts were as National Security Advisor to the Cabinet Office and before that he was the UK’s Permanent Representative to the EU.

As ever, to understand Trump’s statement, you need to look at what his own interests are in making it. Farage was a close ally during and in the run up to the November election. Trump made supportive comments about the Leave campaign in the EU referendum and compared his own to the Brexit mob. (I mistyped the start of “movement” there but decided the mistype was probably more appropriate.). In this case the root is his golf course on the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He has waged a long campaign against the Scottish Government’s decision to allow a small offshore wind farm several miles from the course. He has lost the case in all levels of the UK courts, including the Supreme Court. He has one further recourse, to the EU’s European Court of Justice however the main thrust of the Brexiteers under Farage was to “take our country back” and return decisions like this to the sole juresdiction of the UK. It looks like he has abandoned that and has decided to use extra-legal means. Farage was the first foreign person with any sort of official status to meet with Trump and guess what was discussed:

At the meeting, Farage spoke to the new president-elect about putting the bust of Winston Churchill back in the Oval Office, while Trump encouraged Farage to oppose wind farms, which he felt marred the views from his Scottish golf courses.

Andy Whigmore, a communications officer for one of the groups campaigning to leave the EU who was at the meeting alongside Farage, told the Daily Express: “We covered a lot of ground during the hour-long meeting we had.

“But one thing Mr Trump kept returning to was the issue of wind farms. He is a complete Anglophile and also absolutely adores Scotland, which he thinks is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

“But he is dismayed that his beloved Scotland has become over-run with ugly wind farms, which he believes are a blight on the stunning landscape.”

Like Trump, Farage is a rich businessman masquerading as “a man of the people”. He is again interim leader of UKIP while they select yet another replacement. The last has just resigned the party  after leaving the leadership 18 days after being elected to the post. Another candidate also left the party after an incident in the European Parliament (EP) with another UKIP MEP resulted in him spending several days in hospital. UKIP constantly complains about the failure of proper auditing of the EU’s accounts yet itself has now been told to repay £146,000 given to the EP group it dominates which was intended for use on Parliamentary business.

The European Parliament investigation claims that the UKIP-dominated grouping – the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe – broke rules banning the use of the funds on “financing of national political parties, financing of national election campaigns and candidates or referendum campaigns”.

In a statement the European Parliament Bureau said: “The activities of the ADDE which were found to breach the rules for European party financing, were nine opinion polls held in the UK ahead of the 2015 general elections as well as ahead of the EU referendum in 2016, and a report on these polls.

“The expenditure linked to the services of three consultants was considered non-eligible by an external auditor and by the Parliament’s administration.”

The UK’s Election Commission is now investigating whether this breached election law. Farage himself received criticism for his use of similar funds, intended to enable him to report back his work as an MEP to his constituents, to finance UKIP itself. (The rules at the time were so badly worded that he was able to escape sanctions.)

At the root of this of course is Trump’s failure to understand that foreign Ambassadors represent the interests of thier country with the US Government through the State Department. They are not Trump’s personal representatives to the foreign government. Writing in the right-wing Daily Telegraph, a former British ambassador explains the dilema of trying to penetrate the Trump obscurism and seeming lack of any policy:

It follows that it looks wise to use any possible opening to get close to Mr Trump and his inner team and find out fast what they’re contemplating. Most of this will have to be led by the Washington embassy, as they are paid to find out exactly how to drill down through the US system and identify the right phone numbers to call. But every little helps. If Nigel Farage or anyone else can get in to see Mr Trump and spend an hour with him in current circumstances, surely that’s not a problem – it’s a national asset?

Not so simple. If Donald Trump had a close senior business partner friend in the UK, that person might be a very handy way to get key private messages fed in to the President-elect: in political terms that interlocutor has no big axe to grind. But Nigel Trump [sic: I presume he means Farage] enters the fray with voluble personal and political agendas of his own. Is he to be relied on to engage with Donald Trump or anyone else and get across private high-level UK official policy ideas in a disciplined way, or is he going to be tempted to spin the conversation for his own purposes? And can he be trusted to convey back to London exactly what Donald Trump says, no more and no less?

Much of this of course is also Farage trying to find a role for himself after leaving the leadership of UKIP and indeed to find a role for UKIP in British politics after the Brexit decision.

At Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions at lunchtime, Boris Johnson (the Foreign Secretary and erstwhile registered candidate for the 2016 Presidential elections- by reason of his being born in the USA) told the Commons that there was no vacancy and that the current Ambassador was “doing a good job”.

Conservative MP Sir Simon Burns says it is “extremely generous” of Donald Trump to suggest who should be our ambassador to the US, although highlighting the fact that there is no vacancy.

“In that measure of fraternity,” he says, “might the foreign secretary suggest that the best person to fill the vacancy of ambassador to the UK next year would be Hillary Clinton?”

Jeremy Vine, the BBC journalist who also has his own show on BBC Radio 2 which mixes current affairs and music had another suggestion. He tweeted:


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