Diplomat Karen Pierce appointed as UK’s new ambassador to U.S.

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has named career diplomat Karen Pierce as its new ambassador to the United States, the first woman to hold the U.S. post, with the task of shoring up relations with London’s closest ally after Brexit.

Pierce, 60, a former ambassador to Afghanistan, replaces Kim Darroch who resigned last July after U.S. President Donald Trump labeled him “stupid” and “wacky” following the release of confidential memos in which he had branded the U.S. president’s administration inept.

“It is a time of huge opportunity for the friendship between the UK and US and I am delighted that Karen Pierce will take forward this exciting new chapter in our relationship,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

“We’re proud to be sending to Washington such an outstanding diplomat, and I warmly congratulate her on her appointment.”

Pierce is currently Britain’s Ambassador to the United Nations in New York and Permanent Representative at the UN Security Council.

Relations between Britain and the United States, which both sides often describe as a “special relationship”, have fluctuated since Trump took office in 2017.

He criticized Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May’s handling of Brexit and there have been disagreements over Iran, plans for a tax on digital companies, and most recently Britain’s decision to allow Chinese firm Huawei a role in building its 5G mobile phone network.

However, both allies have said ties are strong and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week Britain would be “at the front of the line” for a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States.

Pierce began her career at the Foreign Office in 1981 and was Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan between 2015 and 2016.

She has also served as Permanent Representative to the UK Mission to the World Trade Organization among other international organizations.

“I am honored to have been asked to represent the UK in the U.S. I think it is the UK’s single most important relationship,” she said in a statement.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)