Boris Johnson vows to be 'robust' with Donald Trump as prime minister

Friday, July 12th, 2019 10:35am

Boris Johnson has insisted he will "continue to be robust" with Donald Trump if he becomes prime minister.

The Conservative leadership candidate claimed the US president is someone who "can deal" with criticism, but stressed it was important for a UK leader to have a "close working relationship with whoever is in the White House".

Mr Johnson used the latest Tory hustings event on Thursday night to hit back at criticism of his apparent influence on the decision of Sir Kim Darroch, the UK's ambassador to the US, to resign.

Sir Kim quit following the leak of his diplomatic memos, in which he referred to Mr Trump as "inept", and the subsequent refusal of the US president to deal with him.

Mr Johnson came under fire for failing to state, prior to Sir Kim's resignation, that he would keep the US ambassador in place should he become prime minister.

Whitehall sources told Sky News that Sir Kim "decided the game was up" following the lack of support from Mr Johnson, who is expected to succeed Theresa May later this month.

Speaking at the hustings event in Kent, Mr Johnson called the continuing fallout an attempt to "politicise" Sir Kim's departure.

He revealed he had spoken on the telephone to the ex-diplomat to express "how much I regretted his resignation".

Mr Johnson claimed the former diplomat was "the victim of a very unpleasant stunt" and said all civil servants "should feel free… to speak without fear or favour to their political masters".

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Calling for whoever leaked the diplomatic messages to be "hunted down and prosecuted", Mr Johnson added: "There has certainly been an attempt to politicise this issue and to take the career prospects of Sir Kim and turn them into an issue in the Conservative Party leadership contest, I notice that.

"I don't think that should happen... I don't think that issues of personnel in our civil service should become footballs in political conversation."

Challenged if he would ever take Mr Trump to task, Mr Johnson highlighted how - during his time in government - he "criticised him as foreign secretary" over issues such as the Paris climate change agreement and the Iran nuclear deal.

"We were very robust with the US and will continue to be robust with the US," he said.

But Mr Johnson added: "I think people in this audience tonight would expect the prime minister of the UK to want to have a close working relationship with whoever is in the White House and that is certainly what I will have and indeed already have."

He also highlighted how, during his time as London mayor, he had disputed Mr Trump's claim that there were parts of the capital where "police are afraid for their own lives".

Mr Johnson said at the time: "Crime has been falling steadily in both London and New York - and the only reason I wouldn't go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump."

On Thursday, Mr Johnson explained: "I think the president is a man who can deal with that kind of thing, he understood that he was saying something about the city I love and I represent.

"The UK will stand up for the UK interest, the UK will stand up - and I will stand up - for our fantastic diplomats across the world.

"I just don't think their careers should be used as political footballs, that's all."

Mr Johnson's rival for the Tory leadership, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, used the hustings event to reveal how he has written to every single diplomat in the Foreign Office.

"I said to them, you must carry on telling us your frank opinions, just in the way you did before and I will always - as foreign secretary - back you to the hilt if you do that," Mr Hunt said.

"Because that is your job and that is what's brilliant about our Foreign and Commonwealth Office."

Mr Hunt has also used an article in the Daily Telegraph, in the wake of heightened tensions in the Gulf, to claim the UK has "run down the Navy too much".

He vowed to review the Navy's resources should he become prime minister and consider the need for more frigates or offshore patrol vessels.

"As health secretary I recognised that times had changed and we needed more funding for the NHS," Mr Hunt wrote.

"I delivered that increase and as prime minister I will do the same for our armed forces."

Sky News

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