By Adam Shaw
Published April 24, 2019
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt fired back at a claim by the outgoing French ambassador to the U.S. that Britain’s influence in Washington, D.C. has “vanished” -- saying the U.K. “will not take any lessons” from the French in having good relations with America.
“Mon cher ami [Gerard Araud] I am sure you enjoyed making hay with the UK's temporary Brexit travails but until there is a French President's bust in the Oval Office we will not take any lessons in having good relations with Washington,” Hunt tweeted, along with a picture of President Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May standing next to the bust of former PM Winston Churchill.
His tweet was attached with a winking emoji, indicating the tweet was perhaps meant to be taken lightly -- but it comes after Araud, who is leaving his post as France’s representative to Washington, said that British influence has disappeared.
“The UK has vanished,” Araud told The Financial Times. “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.”
Araud has been on something of a tear as he departs the capital, giving a series of interviews in which he has weighed in on current affairs in often-undiplomatic language.
In an interview with Foreign Policy last week, he drew a stark contrast between the presidencies of Barack Obama and Trump.
“On one side, you had this ultimate bureaucrat, an introvert, basically a bit aloof, a restrained president. A bit arrogant also but basically somebody who every night was going to bed with 60-page briefings and the next day they were sent back annotated by the president,” he said, referring to Obama.
“And suddenly you have this president who is an extrovert, really a big mouth, who reads basically nothing or nearly nothing, with the interagency process totally broken and decisions taken from the hip basically.”
Both Britain and France have had tumultuous relationships with the U.S. since Trump entered the White House. The White House announced Tuesday that Trump will travel to both countries in June to mark the anniversary of the D-Day landings -- which will include a state visit to London.
Trump has repeatedly backed Britain’s departure from the European Union, and recently called for a “large scale Trade Deal with the United Kingdom” once it leaves, but has also criticized May’s handling of the negotiations.
Meanwhile, Trump described French President Emmanuel Macron as “perfect” when he visited the White House last year, before the relationship soured over issues such as NATO funding, tariffs and Trump’s decision to begin withdrawing from Syria.
Macron would go on to mull a European army to "protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America” -- which led Trump to point to the French surrender to Germany in World War II, and to knock Macron’s low approval ratings.