It’s not exactly the most promising start between two allies with a “special relationship” after Downing Street on Tuesday slapped down a recommendation from US president-elect Donald Trump that UKIP leader Nigel Farage would be “great” as UK's envoy to Washington.
The proximity between Trump and Farage has often been highlighted, first during the election campaign and when Farage became the first international leader to meet the real estate mogul after he emerged victorious.
But Trump putting in an unsolicited word for Farage in future US-UK relations ruffled diplomatic feathers.
As Farage pushed himself for a role on Britain’s behalf, Trump tweeted on Monday evening: “Many people would like to see @Nigel_Farage represent Great Britain as their Ambassador to the United States. He would do a great job!”
Many people would like to see @Nigel_Farage represent Great Britain as their Ambassador to the United States. He would do a great job!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 22, 2016
But a Downing Street spokesman said: “There is no vacancy. We already have an excellent ambassador to the US.” This was reiterated by Brexit secretary David Davis, who said, "We have a very good ambassador in Washington, Kim Darroch, and he'll be there for years".
It is considered unprecedented for an incoming US president to ask a world leader to appoint an opposition party leader as ambassador. The role of Britain’s envoy to the US is among the most prestigious in the diplomatic service.
Trump’s “undiplomatic” tweet came within hours of Downing Street announcing it was considering a state visit by the new US president in 2017. The tweet put Prime Minister Theresa May in a difficult position.
On his part, Farage said he was flattered by Trump’s endorsement, and called it “a bolt from the blue”. He said he did not see himself as a typical diplomatic figure, “but this is not the normal course of events”.
Farage, reported to be expecting an invitation to Trump’s inauguration in January, said his offer to help Britain in its relationship with the US remained, but warned critics that “the world has changed and it’s time that Downing Street did too”.
Christopher Meyer, a former British envoy to the US, said he was baffled by Trump’s tweet: “UK ambassador in DC exists to defend UK interests in US, not US interests in UK. Can’t have foreign presidents deciding who our (ambassador) should be.”