Boris Johnson’s new National Security Adviser expected to take tougher line on China

David Frost is expected to take up the new role in the Autumn 

Boris Johnson’s new National Security Adviser is expected to take a tougher line on China and the role of Huawei in Britain’s 5G infrastructure, defence sources have said.

David Frost, the UK’s current Brexit Sherpa, was described by one source as “a real hawk” on foreign policy, and could take a “much tougher” line than his predecessor Sir Mark Sedwill. 

The Daily Telegraph understands that Mr Frost is expected to take a different position on Huawei to Sir Mark and that the outgoing Cabinet Secretary reportedly advocated in favour of keeping the Huawei deal.

The Prime Minister has continued to face a US backlash for approving the Chinese telecoms giant to construct part of the UK’s 5G wireless network. 

A review by the National Cyber Security Centre of Huawei’s involvement in Britain’s 5G network in the wake of the sanctions has since been launched. 

Tobias Ellwood, Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, added that with the “changing landscape” he anticipated “No 10 will be tasking the new National Security Advisor to prioritise a review of our relationship with an increasingly assertive China which is clearly not maturing into the global citizen the world had once hoped”. 

“Instead Beijing  is deliberately shunning international accountability and any desire to follow global rules. It will be for Mr Frost to establish what role Britain might play in re-invigorating Western resolve to challenge China’s competing geo-political ideology.”

Aside from his seemingly tougher stance on China many have questioned Mr Frost’s lack of a security background and queried how “someone who came up the diplomatic route” would be best placed to “step into this career which is usually a civil servant role”. 

“It raises the question; do you have to have the right proven politics to get into senior positions now?,” one former senior civil servant said.  Sir Mark was a civil servant with an extensive background in security having served as an ambassador to Afghanistan, Deputy High Commissioner in Pakistan and as a Weapons Inspector for the United Nations, among various other international postings. 

“It’s a coordinating role and the person usually has some background in security,” the source added. 

“Palpably he (Mr Frost) doesn’t have any experience in the security field. It’s a very complex, involved, rich area and he’ll have a very steep learning curve.”

Another senior Tory MP described him as someone who “doesn’t set the world on fire” but was well liked by the Prime Minister. 

He cautioned that Mr Frost did not have the “links to the agencies that Mark had” but was “competent and has Boris’ trust and that’s the critical thing”. 

Robert Hannigan, former director of GCHQ, told the BBC’s World at One that “having a political appointee doing a national security role is a good thing”. 

He said the role was “really about shaping under the Prime Minister’s of the day’s vision, which alliances matter most and cultivating those and making some very difficult political decisions, which is why it makes sense”.

He added that the UK’s relationship with Europe would be “crucial to our economic future and therefore to our national security future”.  “It’s going to be the most important relationship we have, certainly for the next few years, and getting that right is the key part of the foreign policy job so it makes sense to me to have the same person doing both.”

While timings are tight Downing Street indicated that it wanted a post-Brexit deal largely concluded by the time he takes up the new role at the end of August.

Mr Frost’s role as chief negotiator will end once an agreement is ratified. However the Prime Minister’s official spokesman conceded it “is possible” there could be “a small overlap with the Brexit negotiations”.  

“David has said he will of course remain the chief negotiator while the talks are being concluded, one way or another,” he added.