The appointment of David Frost as the UK’s new National Security Adviser (NSA) is ruffling quite a few feathers in the UK’s intelligence community. Frost has no experience in the world of intelligence and alongside his work as NSA, he will continue his work as the head of the team handling Brexit negotiations with the EU. This suggests that the UK government thinks that being NSA is not a full-time job. Frost is to be given a peerage along with his new appointment.
The removal of Sir Mark Sedwill from the post follows the removal of Sir Philip Rutnam, Permanent Secretary at the Home Office in February (he was responsible for MI5) and Sir Simon McDonald, the Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office, just two weeks ago (he was responsible for MI6 and GCHQ). This completes a clearout of Britain’s top security officials. They are being replaced with personnel more “in tune” with the current administration’s ideas.
The departure of McDonald was fairly quiet as he was coming to the end of his time anyway, but both Sedwill and Rutnam fought hard against their removal. As a result, they were both briefed against by the Government’s media contacts in what the senior civil servant’s union, the First Division Association, described as a “cowardly” way. Rutnam was so upset at his treatment that he is suing the government. Sedwill has been promised a peerage and subsequently seems to have dropped his opposition to the move.
The government’s plan is now to remake the UK’s security apparatus in a much more pro-Brexit image. The private advisers around the UK Prime Minister, led by Dominic Cumming, believe that there will not now be a trade deal with the European Union. They believe that the two sides will end up in a state of commercial war. They want to see the UK’s foreign intelligence services (GCHQ and MI6) turning their focus to gather commercial and political intelligence which will aid them in this battle against the EU. This situation is pretty much as Russian intelligence analysts predicted when they recommended support for Brexit as a way of promoting conflict in Europe.
What they did not foresee is that MI5 is now expected to turn more of its attention to dealing with internal opposition to Brexit policies. Government advisers believe that in order to make the UK attractive to foreign investors it will be necessary to take measures against environmental protection and employment rights that may lead to opposition by political groups in the UK. Suppressing that dissent will be an important part of UK policy. This change of emphasis will be subtle, but, according to some analysts, increasingly prevalent. It will be interesting to see if this is indeed the case. Defenders of the government have described such stories as scaremongering.