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Sir Mark Sedwill: UK’s top civil servant to stand down as cabinet secretary and national security adviser

The UK’s top civil servant and national security adviser to Boris Johnson is stepping down, the government has announced.

Sir Mark Sedwill is leaving both posts in September – a dramatic move that confirms the prime minister is planning a major Whitehall shake-up.

The news means he will have served a relatively short term of less than two years.

David Frost – the UK’s Brexit sherpa – will become the new national security adviser, combining it with his current job until negotiations with the EU on a trade deal are complete.

He will meet Michael Barnier on Monday morning for the first round of face-to-face Brexit talks in Brussels since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Mr Frost said he was looking forward to the talks in the wake of the outbreak, adding: “These meetings will be smaller and focused on seeing whether we can begin to make genuine and rapid progress towards an agreement.”

The UK has a deadline of 1 July if it wants to extend the transition period beyond the end of next year.

Sky News’s deputy political editor Sam Coates said the appointment of Mr Frost “changes that job of national security adviser from a Whitehall civil service neutral one to a political one”.

He added: “The question is the extent to which the Whitehall shake-up that will be rolled out over the next few days is actually about giving political figures in Number 10 more power and stopping things like the civil service and other checks and balances in the system from gumming up what they want to do, even when they might have to do and say difficult things to ministers.”

Sir Mark was simultaneously in charge of 400,000 civil servants as cabinet secretary and the most senior official advising on security, defence, foreign policy and intelligence matters.

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