Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Teenage Brexit party activist says he's behind Kim Darroch memo leaks

Steven Edginton, 19, insists there was no political motivation behind the leak

Sir Kim Darroch, Britain's former ambassador to the US, resigned after his confidential cables were leaked last week. Victor Blue / Bloomberg
Sir Kim Darroch, Britain's former ambassador to the US, resigned after his confidential cables were leaked last week. Victor Blue / Bloomberg

A teenage staffer for Britain’s Brexit Party said he was behind the leaks of diplomatic memos that harshly criticised the Trump administration, costing Sir Kim Darroch, the former UK ambassador to Washington, his job.

Steven Edginton, 19, a freelance journalist and digital strategist for Nigel Farage’s anti-EU party, uncovered the memos in which Mr Darroch said US President Donald Trump was inept and led a dysfunctional White House.

Mr Trump responded furiously to this month's leaks, calling Mr Darroch a “pompous fool” and a “stupid guy”.

Mr Darroch handed in his resignation three days after the memos were uncovered.

Edginton wrote a story for British newspaper The Mail on Sunday admitting his role in the leak, saying he had been given the ambassador’s briefings on the White House.

He said “Whitehall sources” gave him the information before he built up the story with political journalist Isabel Oakshott.

After working on the story for several months, Edginton decided to leave his name off it.

Some Whitehall observers thought there might have been a political motivation behind the leak.

But Edginton insisted it was not part of a Brexit ploy to oust Mr Darroch in favour of an ambassador who was a stronger supporter of Mr Trump.

He said he vowed to protect the identity of his “trusted source”.

“There had been repeated reports claiming that Europhile mandarins have been quietly working to thwart the result of the referendum,” he wrote.

“I just wanted to discover the truth. This was not a Brexiteer plot to topple Sir Kim, nor was it some devilish scheme to torpedo the independence of the civil service by installing a political appointee in Washington.

"Instead, it was simply an honest journalistic endeavour.”

Edginton now fears he will be arrested by police or intelligence services after the leak, despite maintaining that he was not the leaker.

Mr Darroch’s successor is due to be chosen by the UK’s next prime minister, who will assume the role on Tuesday.

Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary and a favourite to become the next prime minister, did not voice support for Mr Darroch in a televised leadership debate.

The investigation into the leaks continues.

Updated: July 22, 2019 10:06 AM

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