A few days ago, a leak revealed that in cables sent to London, U.K Ambassador to the United States Kim Darroch described Trump's administration as "inept," "insecure" and "incompetent". CNN

Today, President Trump issued a series of tweets which were highly critical of Ambassador Darroch. Trump also said that his administration would "no longer deal with" Darroch. BBC

Is there a mechanism for Trump to force Britain to recall the ambassador (deportation, etc..)


3 Answers 3


Yes. This is covered by Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations:

The receiving State may at any time and without having to explain its decision, notify the sending State that the head of the mission or any member of the diplomatic staff of the mission is persona non grata or that any other member of the staff of the mission is not acceptable. In any such case, the sending State shall, as appropriate, either recall the person concerned or terminate his functions with the mission

This means that President Trump could, effectively, revoke Sir Kim's diplomatic recognition in the US, which would require him to return to the UK (or at least leave the US).

  • if a the UK "terminates his functions with the mission" would Sir Kim still be able to stay in the US under a travel visa? Or are all diplomats required to return home if they are terminated from their mission?
    – user23920
    Jul 9, 2019 at 20:40
  • Sir Kim would have to leave the country if he was declared PNG. He would not be able to remain under the Visa Waiver Program (though I don't see why he wouldn't be able to apply for an ESTA as a private citizen after a period following his departure). justice.gov/olc/opinion/…
    – Joe C
    Jul 9, 2019 at 21:02
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    That inevitably sets off a tit-for-tat exchange of roughly equal number and rank of members of the initiating nation's delegation also seeing their status revoked. Jul 9, 2019 at 21:17
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    @phoog - If the UK felt it would be a reasonable response, then they'd pull the ambassador, themselves, and there would be no need for the USA to change the status. Jul 10, 2019 at 15:25
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    @phoog - among longtime allies, if the USA felt strongly enough that they would make the ambassador persona non grata, and the UK felt this was acceptable, the UK would be aware of the US concerns and would not put them in the position of doing that. If the UK were going to force the US to go to that step, it is a drastic action, and they would not be okay with it. Those two lines of thinking are mutually exclusive, IMO. If my neighbor wants a branch on my tree trimmed so it's not in their yard, and I'm fine with it being trimmed, I'm not going to force them to win a lawsuit in court first. Jul 10, 2019 at 16:32

Is there a mechanism for Trump to force Britain to recall the ambassador (deportation, etc..)

Yes, and he can even do so without taking much action. Indeed, the Vienna Convention offers an option that is an official action. Declaring the British ambassador persona non grata right after the leaking would certainly make headlines, likely alluding to the idea that Trump takes the leaks personally.

Instead, there's a much neater way to achieve the same outcome without much attention being drawn to the American side of the issue. The thing to keep in mind is that the British ambassador (or any ambassador and their staff) are there to represent the sending state's interest in the receiving state.

As president, mister Trump has the power to prevent an ambassador to the US from doing their job by making it clear to his officials that he doesn't like cooperation with this person.

In politics, this isn't new, indeed Wikipedia lists many examples of so-called cordons sanitaire. The term is commonly used to describe political parties which the other parties have agreed not to work with (on some level), that's a big problem for such a party as they are very much limited in passing the legislation they want. For an ambassador, however, this is much more of a problem as it's almost their sole job to to cooperate.

Indeed, tweets like these will do the job of setting such a cordon sanitaire, possibly aided by a written or verbal instruction to top-officials not work with them:

The wacky Ambassador that the U.K. foisted upon the United States is not someone we are thrilled with, a very stupid guy. He should speak to his country, and Prime Minister May, about their failed Brexit negotiation, and not be upset with my criticism of how badly it was...

More ...handled. I told @theresa_may how to do that deal, but she went her own foolish way-was unable to get it done. A disaster! I don’t know the Ambassador but have been told he is a pompous fool. Tell him the USA now has the best Economy & Military anywhere in the World, by far..

Indeed, it worked, from the Guardian:

In a shock move which prompted the senior civil servant at the Foreign Office to call an all-staff meeting to reassure “shaken” diplomats, Darroch announced on Wednesday he could no longer continue in his role following a leak of official cables in which he criticised Donald Trump.

The Guardian understands that he concluded he could not go on after he watched Tuesday’s Conservative leadership TV debate, where Johnson repeatedly dodged questions about whether he would sack the ambassador if he became PM.

Johnson is of course the front-runner in the Conservative leadership contest and it's likely he will be the next UK PM.


Sure, if Trump actually sticks to his word and does not deal with the ambassador then Britain will be pushed to find another ambassador. If done diplomatically, this is entirely feasible.

However, as Trump is famously undiplomatic as his cyber-bullying tirades shows this is quite unlikely. Since such a move would merely give the opportunity for Trumps administration to ‘bully’ his allies even further. So in my view, it’s unlikely that Britain would make such a move, and will stick to the rights enshrined by diplomatic immunity. After all, the part of the point of diplomacy is to discover the real truth of an administration and not merely the air-brushed, public-relations view of the administration.

So, the answer is No.

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    Diplomatic immunity protects ambassadors from arrest. They can still be declared persona non grata and kicked out.
    – Joe C
    Jul 9, 2019 at 20:35
  • Actually, rumour has it that the leak came from Number 10 as retaliation for Darroch's (internal) criticism of UK policy regarding the US. By doing so, in a few weeks time they have the perfect opportunity to replace him without getting tol much pushback from Darroch and others critical of Number 10's handling.
    – JJJ
    Jul 9, 2019 at 20:40
  • @JJJ I'm sceptical as even in the best case this leak makes the UK look incompetent. A source for such a rumour would be interesting along with a reason by the current Foreign Secretary vowing to leave him in place if he wins the up coming leadership election. independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/…
    – Jontia
    Jul 9, 2019 at 20:46
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    @Jontia Well, I can't give you a source for that as it is rather speculative. What I can say, is that Darroch's term ends at the end of this year, but I wouldn't be surprised if he were replaced a bit sooner.
    – JJJ
    Jul 9, 2019 at 21:31
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    @Jontia and another nice quote showing how May might benefit from this happening now, as opposed to a few weeks later, from the Guardian: "Downing Street is so uncomfortable with the outcome that Theresa May is understood to be considering appointing a new ambassador in her last week as prime minister. That would upend protocol amid concerns Johnson could seek to make a controversial political appointment in the hope of pleasing Trump."
    – JJJ
    Jul 11, 2019 at 8:11

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