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U.S. allies hold breakfast for departing British ambassador — and ‘the message is clear’

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 5 days ago Karen DeYoung

© AFP In what one European diplomat called a subtle but “pretty clear” message of solidarity with departing British Ambassador Kim Darroch, his German counterpart hosted him and the French and European Union ambassadors for breakfast at her official residence in Washington on Thursday.

“I’m honored to host my colleagues and friends,” German Ambassador Emily Haber tweeted, along with a photograph of the four of them smiling together in the morning sunshine.

The posted picture, even more than the bacon and eggs, appeared to be the point of the event. It quickly appeared on the Twitter accounts of French Ambassador Philippe Etienne and E.U. Ambassador Stavros Lambrinidis, and of the British Embassy.

Most retweets and replies echoed @JockGlasgow, who wrote: “A reminder of who our true friends are.”

Darroch’s resignation followed last weekend’s leak of internal diplomatic cables in which he described the Trump administration as “inept” and “dysfunctional.” President Trump, in response, tweeted that Darroch, a senior career diplomat who has served here since January 2016, was “a very stupid guy” and “a pompous fool,” and said the United States would no longer deal with him.

The British government has said Darroch was only doing his job, and Prime Minister Theresa May publicly stood by him, calling it a “matter of great regret that he has felt it necessary to leave his position.” But May has had her own difficulties with Trump and is only days away from stepping down.

Trump has indicated that her likely replacement, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, is much more to his liking.

The controversy broke open the poorly-kept Washington secret that many allied governments, particularly in Europe, find the administration difficult to deal with, and their diplomats find they are often walking on eggshells here.

“It’s dysfunctional,” the European diplomat said. “Of course there are people you can work with, can talk to, but it is pretty difficult to say the least.”

The point Darroch was trying to relay to London, the diplomat said, was that “people in Britain thought they had a special relationship” with the United States and that if the British followed through on plans to leave the European Union — as Trump has advocated — they could “count on the Americans” to bolster their economy with trade deals and other advantages. “What he was saying was that America First is what counts here,” said the diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid fueling the controversy.

Darroch’s resignation has prompted discussions in embassies about scaling back access to diplomatic cables. Some have said they will rely more on oral reports and use of encrypted communications.

The decision of the United States’ major European allies to hold the breakfast for Darroch, and to widely publicize it, was a small gesture, the diplomat said. But “the message is clear.”

karen.deyoung@washpost.com

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