Boris Johnson has told Mark Sedwill that he will receive British backing to be the next chief of Nato as part of his exit package from the civil service, according to reports.
Sedwill, who will step down as cabinet secretary and national security adviser to the PM in September, “was apparently told by the prime minister that Number 10 will put his name forward for the highly-coveted position”, the Daily Mail reports.
Current general secretary, Jens Stoltenberg, is not expected to retire from the role until the end of 2022, leading some Whitehall sources to question whether Johnson “will actually deliver on the promise, given that it is so far in the future”, the paper adds.
Johnson told Sedwill that securing the top Nato role for the UK is “critical to his ‘Global Britain’ agenda”, The Times says. But Sedwill “may struggle to win the support of other European Nato members amid probable competition from Mark Rutte”, the serving Dutch prime minister, the paper notes.
“I think Mark is either brave or courageous to accept a promise that they’ll do that in 2022,” one Whitehall source told the paper. “I really hope they keep their word but we’ve all seen this happen before.”
The source added that Sedwill’s hopes for the top Nato role could be “sacrificed” by Number 10 in the future for “something that they really want”.
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The announcement that the UK’s most senior civil servant would be stepping down “sent shockwaves through Whitehall” on Sunday and followed “repeated reports of clashes” with Johnson’s closest aide Dominic Cummings.
The Guardian said that Sedwill’s departure will be seen as a “victory for Dominic Cummings” and for Michael Gove, who “is pushing through a restructuring of government departments”.