UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is facing a crunch decision on Huawei, is reportedly poised to announce this Tuesday that his country will grant the Chinese company access to build parts of its 5G mobile phone network, in defiance of warnings from Washington and some of his most senior MPs, writes The Telegraph.
The stage is set to decide the fate of the Chinese tech giant in the UK at a meeting of the National Security Council, which includes ministers and representatives of the military and security services.
Although Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, and Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, are reportedly anticipated to voice their concerns about Huawei at the meeting, writes the outlet, no resignations are expected, as Johnson is believed to have left no doubt that Huawei will be allowed to bid for contracts.
Amid the pending decision, the UK Prime Minister has been facing dire warnings regarding the world's No. 1 telecom supplier; these have been coming in on several fronts.
President Donald Trump has long warned the UK that allowing Huawei to build any part of the network could gravely impact intelligence-sharing, as the US has long maintained that the Chinese firm’s telecommunications equipment may be designed to spy on foreign corporations and countries on behalf of the Chinese government.
Several days ahead of a visit to meet with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, set for 29 January, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Britain's National Security Council is facing a "momentous decision" on Tuesday.
"The truth is that only nations able to protect their data will be sovereign", Pompeo warned.
Earlier, on 13 January, US officials came to Britain to lobby Washington’s stance on Huawei, urging the UK government to drop its initial plan to allow the company to supply a number of non-core 5G elements to their tech market, and citing new evidence about the security threat the use of Huawei equipment allegedly entails.
At home, Johnson’s own MPs have cautioned that permitting the “Chinese dragon” to infiltrate Britain’s mobile phone network would be disastrous as former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said he had been privately “led to believe this Government would not make that decision”, adding:
“We are at war in a sense, there is a cyber war going on at which China is arguably the single biggest participant… That we should think about giving a company which is heavily subsidised by China, a country that has set out to steal data non stop and also technology; that we think of giving to them that right to be in what is essentially a very, very delicate area of our technology, the idea that we would do that seems to me utterly bizarre.”
Some members of Johnson’s Tory campaign team are cited as claiming the Prime Minister has gone back on his word, with one quoted as saying:
“Boris had always indicated that he was opposed to this decision, he didn't see the logic of it. One of the selling points for getting rid of Theresa May and getting Boris in was this kind of decision. Everyone just assumed the Huawei thing wouldn’t go ahead. So it’s a surprise.”
Damian Green, a former Cabinet minister, reportedly voiced the hope that ministers should “decide that security considerations outweigh economic ones”.
Another Tory member, Andrew Bridgen, was cited as saying that Huawei’s price “is too high for us to pay” if it meant intelligence-sharing with allies could suffer as a consequence.
Matt Warman, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, insisted the Government "pays very close attention to the advice of all of our allies" and that "there are not as many vendors of this kit as we would all like".
Johnson Allays Concerns
Boris Johnson on Monday attempted to allay concerns, saying he would never take a decision that could “jeopardise” Britain’s security relationships.
Bolstered by several of his ministers, the Prime Minister had been laying the groundwork for the announcement throughout the past few weeks, setting out arguments in favour of letting Huawei into the UK’s 5G infrastructure.
Consumers, he argued, would face higher prices, a less reliable network and possibly years of delays to the network project if warnings on Huawei were to be followed through, as Johnson called out Washington on its threats and suggested an “alternative” be offered if the US wanted the Chinese tech titan banned from.
Boris Johnson said on Monday:
“I think there's a very, very important strategic win for the UK. The way forward for us clearly is to have a system that delivers for people in this country the kind of consumer benefits that they want through 5G technology or whatever but does not in any way compromise our critical national infrastructure, our security or jeopardise our ability to work together with other intelligence powers around the world. We are going to come up with a solution that enables us to achieve both those objectives.”
Blacklisted Tech Giant
Last May, the US Commerce Department blacklisted China’s Huawei on the grounds of suspected national security threats coming from Beijing.
The move allowed the US government to cut trade connections between Huawei and American goods manufacturers and restrict the latter’s sales to the Chinese telecom giant, as well as sales of internationally produced goods that use American technology.
In the wake of that move, Washington has been repeatedly urging its allies to follow in its footsteps.
Two of its partners in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, Australia and New Zealand, have fully banned Huawei from their 5G communication networks over cited security risks.
Both Beijing and Huawei have vehemently denied US accusations that Huawei’s telecommunications equipment may be designed to spy on foreign corporations and countries on behalf of the Chinese government.