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Whitehall shake-up

Frost takes security role as civil service chief Sedwill quits

David Frost with John Swinney

David Frost, left, with John Swinney during his time at the SWA (photo by Terry Murden)

Former Scotch Whisky Association head David Frost is to take up one of the key roles of Sir Mark Sedwill who has stood down as the UK’s most senior civil servant amid claims of a smear campaign.

Sir Mark will leave his post as Cabinet Secretary and head of the civil service in September.

His other role as national security adviser will be taken by chief Brexit adviser, Mr Frost who will combine it with his current job until negotiations with the EU on a trade deal are complete.

Sir Mark, 55, the Cabinet Secretary since 2018 and national security adviser since 2017, told friends was angry about negative briefings over many months, according to The Guardian.

Speculation his job was under threat began to grow on Friday, when the Financial Times reported ministers were briefing he was expected to be gone by the end of 2020. The Sunday Telegraph then claimed he could be out by the end of today.

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His departure will be seen as a victory for Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s most senior aide with whom he is said to have clashed over the functioning of Whitehall.

It comes after the media was briefed in March that Sir Mark had failed to get a grip on the coronavirus crisis.

Dave Penman, the head of the senior civil servants’ union, the FDA, said: “No 10 – or those around it – has sought to undermine Sir Mark and the leadership of the civil service with a series of anonymous briefings against him over many months.

“Not only is it a self-defeating and corrosive tactic, it’s also a cowardly one, safe in the knowledge that those who are briefed against are unable to publicly respond.”

Sir Mark has been given a life peerage to sit in the House of Lords, as as is customary.

His resignation is the latest case of tension between the civil service and senior ministers and their advisers and comes amid talk of a shake-up of the civil service in the autumn. The international development department is being abolished and merged with the Foreign Office.

Mr Johnson said his new national security adviser Mr Frost was an “experienced diplomat, policy thinker, and proven negotiator, with a strong belief in building Britain’s place in the world”.

Mr Frost left the Diplomatic Service in 2013 to become CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association, succeeding Gavin Hewitt. In 2016, he was admitted as a Liveryman of the Distillers’ Company.

In November of that year he became special adviser to Mr Johnson when he was appointed Foreign Secretary. He served until Mr Johnson left post in July 2018.

Early last yer, Mr Frost became CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

He has also served as a public commentator on the European Union, global economic and commercial issues, and multilateral diplomacy, as a member of the Advisory Council of the EU think tank Open Europe, and as an advisor on Brexit to the Scottish Government.

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