Brendan O’Neill Brendan O’Neill

Why won’t Brexiteers stand up to Donald Trump?

There’s a new way of testing if someone is genuinely committed to the ideal of national sovereignty. Let’s call it the Darroch Test.

Will you stand up to any foreign leader who arrogantly presumes the right to tell Britain who its ambassadors overseas should be? Or will you cave in to that foreign leader and effectively let him or her dictate the make-up of Britain’s diplomatic corps?

That’s the Darroch Test. That’s the new national sovereignty test. And, sadly, many Brexiteers, the people who are meant to be standing up for the sovereign rights of the British nation against foreign oligarchies and bureaucratic bullies, have failed it.

Yes, this concerns Kim Darroch, who resigned today as ambassador to the United States. An unscrupulous leak revealed cables in which Mr Darroch referred to President Donald Trump’s administration as ‘inept’ and ‘dysfunctional’ and said its policy on Iran was ‘incoherent’.

Who could disagree with these assessments? Even Boris Johnson — whose failure to defend Darroch this week apparently convinced Darroch he had no choice but to step down — has accused Trump of ‘stupefying ignorance’. The difference is that Boris said those words in public whereas Darroch, as befits his diplomatic role, made his comments in private. It’s not his fault they were leaked.

Darroch did nothing wrong. Ambassadors have been sending stinging private assessments of the nations they’ve been packed off to for as long as diplomacy has existed. It’s part of the job. The wrongdoing was the leaker’s, whoever that was. The leaking of such sensitive cables suggests there’s a serious problem in the Foreign Office. 

Following the leak, Trump said he would no longer deal with Darroch. And right then a challenge was laid down to the British establishment: would it defend Darroch, and by extension Britain’s sovereign right to choose its own ambassadors, or would it give in to Trump and let him effectively decide who should represent the UK overseas?

Too many of them have done the latter.

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