JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI, UNITED STATES (RESTRICTED POOL) – Britain on Tuesday (November 22) dismissed U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s unprecedented expression of support for Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage to be made British ambassador to Washington, saying pointedly that there is no vacancy for the 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!” Trump said.
Prime Minister Theresa May, who congratulated Trump on his victory, was swift to reject such an undiplomatic proposal, with a spokesman saying Britain already had an excellent ambassador to Washington and that London would appoint its own envoys.
It is highly unusual in the modern era for leaders to publicly suggest to foreign nations whom they would like to see as ambassador, though during strained relations they sometimes reject or expel envoys.
“I cannot recall any similar requests made in history. Certainly not one made so publicly, and in some ways making it so publicly almost guarantees you can’t do it because it would basically make Theresa May look like she will do whatever Donald Trump asks,” Jason Dittmer, Professor of Political Geography at University College London told Reuters.
“An ambassador is meant to embody the government in a foreign land and that person has to be utterly trustworthy and has to have the full confidence of the government and that works both ways. If soon to be President Trump asks Nigel Farage something about the British government and he can’t actually speak for them very well, then he’s not doing any good for Trump or the British government,” he added.
The public suggestion about who to appoint as ambassador by the man who will lead Britain’s most powerful ally puts Prime Minister May in a difficult position just as she tries to build ties with Washington ahead of leaving the EU.
London is trying to gauge whether Trump would support a special trade deal with Britain as it negotiates a divorce from the EU. Britain also places great store on what it calls its “special relationship” with the United States.
Farage, who spent decades campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union and helped force former Prime Minister David Cameron to call the June referendum that brought the Brexit vote, spoke at a Trump rally during the U.S. campaign and visited the president-elect after his victory.
The way ambassadors are chosen in the United States and Europe differs significantly.
It is common practice for the United States to appoint celebrities or campaign donors as envoys, for example when Richard Nixon appointed Shirley Temple as his envoy to Ghana in 1974.
European states mostly appoint career diplomats or officials with long experience as ambassadors.
Kim Darroch, the current British ambassador in Washington, did not reply to emails from Reuters requesting comment on Trump’s remarks. His email bounced back with an out of office reply saying that the ambassador was travelling.