UK Appoints New Foreign Office Chief

By on 29/07/2015 | Updated on 25/09/2020
UK Appoints New Foreign Office Chief

The British ambassador to Germany has been appointed the new top civil servant of Britain’s foreign office, it has been announced today.

Sir Simon McDonald will take up the role of permanent under secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and head of the UK’s diplomatic service in September.

He is replacing Sir Simon Fraser is retiring from the post after 36 years in the civil service, at the end of this month.

An FCO spokesman told Global Government Forum that the department’s three directors-general (DGs) – Sir Julian King, DG, Economic and Consular; Sir Simon Gass, DG, Political; and Sarah MacIntosh, DG, Defence and Intelligence – will share the role of acting permanent secretary until McDonald starts.

McDonald joined the British diplomatic service in 1982 and has served in Jeddah and Riyadh, both in Saudi Arabia; Bonn, in Germany; Washington in the US; Tel Aviv, in Israel; and in a wide range of jobs in London.

He took up his position as British ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany in October 2010. In that role he leads the embassy in Berlin and the two consulates-general in Düsseldorf and Munich. He had an earlier posting to Germany between 1988 and 1990 when he was at the British Embassy in Bonn as second secretary (economic).

Before becoming ambassador in Berlin, McDonald served as the prime minister’s foreign policy adviser and head of foreign and defence policy in the Cabinet Office from 2007 to 2010. From 2003 to 2006 he was British ambassador to Israel.

He was appointed Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George in 2014.

He said: “I am honoured. I have worked for the diplomatic service for 33 years and it is a privilege now to lead it.

“My immediate foreign policy priorities are the EU renegotiation, Russia/Ukraine, countering extremism, boosting trade and inward investment and keeping our citizens safe overseas. I look forward to the challenge.”

Before representing the UK as ambassador in Germany, McDonald worked as foreign policy adviser to the prime minister & head of foreign and defence policy in the Cabinet Office for three years.

Prior to that, he held various roles within the FCO, including that of ambassador to Israel, director, principal private secretary to the foreign secretary, and speech writer.

Foreign secretary Philip Hammond said McDonald’s “wealth of experience and commitment to the Foreign Office means he is well placed to lead the organisation through a challenging time internationally.”

And cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, said he is looking forward to working with McDonald, adding that “his extensive diplomatic experience, strong policy development and communication skills will enable him to lead the FCO successfully through the policy and financial challenges ahead. I am very much looking forward to working with him.”

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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