Foreign Secretary William Hague today ordered the acting High Commissioner of Malawi to leave the UK in a tit-for-tat response to the expulsion of Britain's representative in the African country.
Mr Hague gave his full backing to UK High Commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet and branded the decision to expel him "totally unacceptable and unwarranted".
Mr Cochrane-Dyet was ordered out of capital Lilongwe after critical comments about President Bingu wa Mutharika in a leaked diplomatic cable.
Extracts from the leaked document published in the Malawian press last week suggested that the British diplomat had warned that the President was "becoming ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism".
In a statement released by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) today, Mr Hague said: "The Government of Malawi's decision to expel the British High Commissioner to Malawi, Mr Fergus Cochrane-Dyet, is totally unacceptable and unwarranted.
"Mr Cochrane Dyet is an able and effective diplomat who has behaved with integrity throughout his posting to Lilongwe, and who retains the full confidence of the British Government.
"It is a worrying sign that the Malawian Government is expending its energies in this way, rather than focusing on the real and substantial challenges facing it, including the need for improved governance.
"At my direction, the FCO has today told the Acting High Commissioner of Malawi that she and her dependants must leave the UK at the earliest opportunity. I have also asked my officials, working closely with their colleagues elsewhere in government, to review rapidly the full range of our wider relationship with Malawi."