US ambassador to Britain, Woody Johnson, warned the UK of allowing Chinese tech firm Huawei to play a role in developing the UK’s 5G infrastructure.
Mr Johnson warned the Prime Minister that doing so would be like “letting a kleptomaniac move into your house” and that Britain should avoid “untrustworthy countries in the heart of our economics and infrastructure".
Mr Johnson said at a Margaret Thatcher conference hosted by the Centre for Policy Studies that giving Huawei the contract to work with the UK’s nascent 5G network would be a big mistake, adding that it was “something which we’ve discussed a lot and it’s very important”.
He said: "If you let untrustworthy countries in the heart of our economics and infrastructure, what could they do when inside them? I’ve always said it’s like letting a kleptomaniac move into your house.
"And then you’ve got to hire three people to follow them around all day and see how that works – it’s not a very good situation, maybe that’s unfair in some ways but I think it’s one way to look at it.
Mr Johnson added that there were “big threats” that the US and UK were facing and that “countries of freedom and democracy” needed to be “strong” and “united”.
His statement comes after backlash from senior government ministers led the outgoing PM to sack former UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson in early May, who had allegedly leaked the news to the Daily Telegraph.
But Downing Street has not made a final decision on Huawei, despite UK defence secretary Penny Mordaunt voicing opposition to doing so.
Huawei’s Response to UK Fears on It’s 5G Tech
Huawei launched its corporate campaign, ‘A Fully Connected Britain is a Fully United Britain’, to allay fears of a hostile takeover of the UK’s 5G infrastructure, using a mix of adverts in “print, digital and outdoor” to “help position the UK as a digital leader and boosting the economy”.
According to Huawei, the campaign asserts that £1.7bn will be added to the UK’s GDP, as well as adding 26,000 jobs and contributing £470m in taxes to the UK government. The company has alreay committed to spending £3bn from 2018 to 2022 as part of a five-year business strategy.
A Huawei spokesperson said that the tech giant has operated in the UK since 2001 and supplied all major telecom operators with its products and solutions, whilst reaffirming its long-term investments and commitment to creating jobs and opportunities “across the UK”.
Wikileaks and Snowdon Revelations
Despite accusations against Huawei 'security threats', former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden’s revealed in 2013 multiple security risks US tech posed to international markets.
Snowden found that US mobile carriers had been giving the NSA its customers’ mobile records, prompting fierce backlash from US courts, with one judge calling the program “almost Orwellian”,
The NSA’s spy programme PRISM also sparked intense scrutiny of the security agency’s ability to request user data from servers from US-based tech firms, including Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google and others.
In 2014, five Chinese officials were charged by the US Department of Justice with economic cyber espionage, prompting Beijing's defence ministry to slam Washington for its "hypocrisy and double standards" on cyber espionage.
“From WikiLeaks to the Snowden case, US hypocrisy and double standards regarding the issue of cyber-security have long been abundantly clear," China's Defence Ministry said.