WATCH Boris Johnson: Sir Kim Darroch told me I was one of the reasons why he quit
Boris Johnson has conceded that his failure to back the UK’s ambassador to Washington was a reason behind the top diplomat’s resignation.
Sir Kim Darroch quit the role on Wednesday amid a storm over leaked messages in which he described Donald Trump's administration as "inept" and "uniquely dysfunctional".
The comments infuriated the US President, who branded the ambassador “very stupid” and said his government would no longer have any dealings with him.
Mr Johnson initially dismissed suggestions by Whitehall sources that his failure to row behind the top civil servant in an ITV debate was a factor in his decision to resign.
But in a grilling by the BBC’s Andrew Neil, the Tory leadership frontrunner said Sir Kim had told him in a phone call on Thursday that his stance “had certainly been a factor”.
The ex-foreign secretary said the ambassador had not watched the debate, but that the comments had been “relayed” to him.
When pressed on whether he was partly responsible, Mr Johnson responded: “[Sir Kim] said that what somebody had relayed to him had certainly been a factor in his resignation … I think that unfortunately what I had said on that TV debate was misrepresented to Kim.”
Mr Johnson said he was “very sad” that the civil servant of 42 years had lost his job, but added that the “real culprits” were those who leaked the material to the Mail on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt, who was also interviewed by the veteran journalist, refused to commit to taking Britain out of the European Union by Christmas.
The Foreign Secretary has said he would be prepared to extend the Brexit deadline beyond 31 October if a deal that could be supported by both the UK and EU was close.
When asked if the UK would be out by Christmas, Mr Hunt said: "I'm not going to give you those commitments … Prime Ministers should only make promises they know they can deliver.”
When it was put to him that the exit date must be around that time, if he would only allow a short extension, Mr Hunt responded: "I would expect so, yes."
He added: “I’m not going to make that mistake [of promising an exit date].
“I am saying this: if you want to leave the EU quickly, if you want to avoid a general election, which is the risk if you go about this in the wrong way, I’m the person who has the biggest chance of negotiating that deal and getting us out by 31 October.”