Sunday 28 June 2020 6:30 pm

UK's top civil servant Sir Mark Sedwill resigns

The UK’s top civil servant Sir Mark Sedwill has resigned from his three-pronged role as cabinet secretary, national security adviser and head of the civil service.

Sedwill announced his resignation today and will step down from his role in September, after 30 years in the civil service.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has nominated Sedwill for a life peerage and he will also lead a lead a new G7 panel on Global Economic Security.

Johnson’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost will take up the role as national security adviser, while the soon-to-be vacant positions of cabinet secretary and head of the civil service will be recruited for.

In his resignation letter, Sedwill wrote: “Two years ago, when my predecessor fell ill, your predecessor asked me to step in as cabinet secretary, and you asked me to continue to support you through Brexit and the election period.

“It was obviously right to stay on for the acute phase of the Covid-19 crisis. As you are setting out this week, the Government’s focus is now shifting to domestic and global recovery and renewal.

“As we have discussed over the past few months, while the combined model was right for the circumstances of my tenure, as you lead the country through this next phase, you will need a separate national security adviser to support you on the global agenda, permitting the cabinet secretary to focus on the domestic agenda.”

Johnson’s handwritten reply to the resignation was also released to the media, with the Prime Minister thanking Sedwill for his “calm and shrewd advice”.

He added: “You have done it all in Whitehall: from Afghanistan to the modernisation of the civil service; from immigration policy to Brexit and defeating coronavirus.

“After serving for decades with great distinction – and unflappable good humour – I believe you have earned the gratitude of the nation.”

The resignation of Sedwill was expected, after multiple media outlets reported today that he was preparing to step down next week.

It has been speculated that Sedwill and the Prime Minister had clashed over the past six months and that his exit will be the start of a larger overhaul of the civil service by Johnson and his team.

Johnson’s new national security adviser, David Frost, has been a close ally and has acted as the Prime Minister’s “Brexit sherpa”.

Read more: Barnier: Brexit deal ahead if Britain stops backtracking

“My aim is to support the Prime Minister in setting a new strategic vision for Britain’s place in the world as an independent country after the end of the EU transition period, and in championing that vision as we strengthen our international relationships,” Frost said.

“To do this effectively we need to strengthen and refocus our international policy apparatus, to ensure that we keep pace with others in the world. The creation of the new Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office is one important step in this. Implementing the Integrated Review of our international capability, and making sure we use the National Security Council to drive its results, are also essential and I look forward to leading both.”

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