9 July 2019

Is the Brexit Party unpatriotic?

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It seems odd to think that the chief beneficiaries of the leak of our Washington ambassador’s e-mails would be a few Brexit Party MEPs, but they are certainly doing their best to make political capital out of it, seemingly with the faintly bizarre mission to make Nigel Farage our new man in Washington.

Since the unflattering cables from Sir Kim Darroch on the Trump administration surfaced in the Mail on Sunday, Farage himself has been touring the studios proclaiming that “Kim Darroch is totally unsuitable for the job and the sooner he is gone the better”. Fellow MEP and Brexit Party chairman, Richard Tice added that Darroch had “humiliated and embarrassed us on the global stage, how can he retain his post?”.

Others piling in included another Brexit Party MEP, Michael Heaver, editor of the Arron Banks-rolled website Westmonster, “Instead of securing huge UK-US trade deal with a pro-Brexit President, we’re still in EU and our Ambassador has embarrassed us,” he tweeted. Banks himself opted for the pithy, “Time to be fired!”.

All these attacks seemed coordinated to get Sir Kim sacked, all for daring to suggest in a private communique that Donald Trump’s White House might verge on the dysfunctional.

The fact that leading figures from such a prominent party are turning their guns on our own ambassador for secretly giving his opinion is quite troubling. Whether you believe Russian hackers were the Mail on Sunday’s source or it was a disgruntled civil servant with access to three years’ worth of top secret cables, the point is that Darroch’s opinions were privately expressed and communicated on what were previously considered secure channels.

In fact it’s hard to disagree with Liam Fox’s view of the Mail on Sunday’s source, “They’re unprofessional, they’re unethical, and they’re unpatriotic,” (unless of course they work for Russia in which case the opposite is mostly true). The same could be said for many of the leaker’s supporters.

From what we’ve seen so far, it’s clear the Brexit Party’s leading lights think siding with Donald Trump is more important than a British ambassador’s right to offer the British government confidential counsel. It also suggests that for many of our new MEPs, daring to attack the US president is now considered akin to the cardinal sin of criticising Brexit.

This worship of Trump above all else is a peculiar and growing feature of a certain part of the Eurosceptic right in this country. Their theory seems to be that Brexit and Trump are part of the same international movement, against which is ranged the forces of a hostile establishment of politicians and civil servants.

The Brexit Party leadership’s co-ordinated attack on Kim Darroch shows they are fully on board with this idea. Officials who push back against Trump, even if they are British, can expect to be vilified. Apparently, Nigel Farage’s idea of pursuing Britain’s interests is simply doing whatever Trump asks of him, which would make for an interesting ambassadorship.

In the long run though it is doubtful whether the Brexit Party’s supporters will be so taken with Farage and co’s stance. Already support appears to be drifting slowly back to the Tories after the European elections, and while the leak has presented something of a hospital pass to whoever becomes the new Tory leader, perhaps it is also an opportunity.

While some Brits might have a bit of sympathy with Trump’s schtick, I would wager a far greater number look askance at a foreign leader berating one of Her Majesty’s officials for pointing out what is painfully obvious to anyone else. The next Prime Minister should not be shy about pointing out Farage’s inconsistency. He can either back Trump to the hilt, or he can back the UK – he can’t pretend to do both.

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Henry Williams is a writer based in London