British influence in Washington has 'vanished' due to Brexit, French ambassador to US says

Jon Stone
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British influence in Washington has 'vanished' due to Brexit, French ambassador to US says

British influence in Washington has 'vanished' due to Brexit, French ambassador to US says

British influence in Washington DC has “vanished” following Brexit, the outgoing French ambassador to the US has said.

Gérard Araud said UK diplomats were nowhere to be seen as their home country became increasingly insular and focused on the one issue dominating its politics.

“The UK has vanished,” Mr Araud told the Financial Times newspaper in an interview on the eve of his retirement.

“The British ambassador told me — and I loved it — that every time the British military is meeting with the American military, the Americans are talking about the French.”

The claim comes ahead of a planned state visit by Donald Trump to Britain in June, a diplomatic coup sought by Theresa May.

The prime minister was quick to seek close ties with the Trump administration when she came to office, putting her at odds with UK public opinion, and others including the Speaker of the Commons John Bercow.

But Mr Trump has been a fickle partner. Though the US president has welcomed Brexit and originally said he would offer the UK a “large scale” trade deal after it left, he has since cooled after the shape of the UK’s exit became clear.

In November he embarrassed Ms May by saying her Brexit plan meant the UK may not be able to trade with the US after it left the EU, and that it sounded “great” for the European Union.

The issue of a future US-UK trade deal has also been further complicated by concerns in Britain that the UK might have to water down its safety and environmental standards to meet US demands. This has been expressed through anxiety over so-called chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef.

France has a mixed relationship with the Trump administration. While Mr Trump and Mr Macron have entertained each other as guests on state visits, the US president caused a diplomatic spat in November after he skipped a ceremony marking the centenary of the end of WWII.

Mr Araud painted an unflattering picture of Mr Trump, warning that his “unpredictability and his single-minded transactional interpretation of US interests was leaving the administration isolated on the world stage”.