Trump risks rift by supporting Nigel Farage as UK ambassador to Washington
New York — Donald Trump has risked a diplomatic rift with London by suggesting Nigel Farage would make a "great" UK ambassador to the US, days after the president-elect sought the former Ukip leader’s support in opposing Scottish wind farms near two golf courses he owns.
Trump tweeted on Monday night: "Many people would like to see @Nigel_Farage represent Great Britain as their Ambassador to the United States. He would do a great job!"
The role of UK ambassador to the US is seen as the UK’s top diplomatic posting. Sir Kim Darroch, formerly the UK’s national security adviser and permanent representative to the EU, took over the role in January this year.
"There is no vacancy. We have an excellent ambassador to the US," the UK government said on Tuesday.
Trump’s statement is embarrassing for British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government, which this week has floated the idea of inviting him on a state visit to the UK following his inauguration next year.
UK ministers and opposition leaders have poured scorn on giving Farage any official role.
"Farage as ambassador is a frankly stupid idea. I have more diplomacy in my little finger," said Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron on Twitter.
Farage as ambassador is a frankly stupid idea. I have more diplomacy in my little finger. But what's more worrying is the axing of TPP— Tim Farron (@timfarron) November 22, 2016
Farage, who campaigned for Trump, was the first foreign politician to meet the president-elect after his shock election victory. The two were photographed at Trump Tower, the businessman’s New York hotel, less than a week after the vote.
May has come under pressure from some Tory backbenchers who say the prime minister should use Farage as an unofficial contact with the incoming administration.
Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench influential 1922 committee, said: "Do I think it’s a bad thing if Nigel Farage is spending time in Washington encouraging them to be pro-British? No I don’t. I am quite relaxed about it. I don’t see a formal role."
Last week there were reports in UK media that Farage may be offered a peerage.
The Brexit campaigner has offered himself as a go-between for the new US administration and the UK government, but London says it has "well-established" channels of communication with Trump’s team.
The UK government’s misgivings about his role will be seen as justified with reports Trump sought to enlist Farage’s support to oppose wind farm developments in Scotland, where the US tycoon owns two golf course developments.
Andy Wigmore, a media consultant and friend of Farage, told the New York Times that wind farms had been discussed — raising fresh concerns about Trump’s readiness to use his position as president to push his private business interests.
At their meeting Farage reportedly spoke to the new president-elect about putting the bust of Winston Churchill back in the Oval Office.
Wigmore told the Daily Express: "We covered a lot of ground during the hour-long meeting we had. But one thing Mr Trump kept returning to was the issue of wind farms. He is a complete Anglophile and also absolutely adores Scotland, which he thinks is one of the most beautiful places on earth."
Wigmore confirmed he and insurance millionaire Arron Banks would be lobbying against wind farms, which he said were "spoiling the countryside".
Earlier on Monday Trump’s office was forced to deny reports in Argentinian media that he had used his first conversation with Mauricio Macri, president of Argentina, to discuss planning hold-ups in the construction of his new Trump Office development in Buenos Aires.
(c) 2016 The Financial Times