Speaking to CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Thursday evening, Philip Hammond, who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Foreign Secretary in the May and Cameron administrations, respectively, defended UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to allow Huawei to build the nation's 5G networks.
Mr Hammond said that the Huawei decision showed that PM Johnson was "not towing the Washington line" to keep ties with US president Donald Trump and "perfectly prepared" to stand up to for British interests, but added that open dialogue could "never be a bad thing".
Speaking on whether the Prime Minister could "have it both ways" in terms of the government's Huawei decision, Mr Hammond said: "It's going to create tension, but some of this reaction is hyperbole.
— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) January 30, 2020
He explained: "First of all, Huawei is all over the US telecoms networks and has been for years, and what the UK is proposing is really a rather modest inclusion of the world's leading 5G equipment provider in the UK's roll-out of 5G.
PM Johnson's main point was that Britain must face the challenge of staying "at the cutting edge of technologies" using 5G, including autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and the internet of things, among others, he said.
Speaking on protests from Washington, he explained: "Frankly, the West and the US largely has to take the rap for this, has been asleep on the job here. They've allowed the Chinese to effectively gain the upper hand in a technology which will be enabling technology for much of the 21st century, and I'm not surprised that people in the White House are kicking and screaming when they have discovered that is the case.
He concluded that there was no US or European "champion" capable of replacing the Chinese telecoms giant's 5G equipment that had "similar capability, competitively priced, user friendly that can be rolled out quickly".
The government decision on Huawei struck a balance between pros and cons, the former top official said, adding that it was "the right balance".
The UK should allow Huawei to build its networks but London should "do it eyes wide open" by remaining careful on network security, limiting Huawei's "total percentage" in the UK's market share as well as manage "which parts of the network they could be involved in".
The agreement in policy comes despite prior clashes with No 10 on the government's Withdrawal Agreement, ultimately leading to his expulsion from the Conservative party.
The comments were made just days after US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, failed to persuade Downing Street officials to reverse its decision on allowing Huawei to build the country's 5G "non-core" networks. European Union officials also agreed on Wednesday to allow Huawei a role in the continent's 5G networks, rather than a blanket ban on the Chinese telecoms giant, but imposed strict preconditions, to strong protests from Washington.
Responding to the UK government's decision, which was announced on Tuesday, Huawei vice president Victor Zhang expressed his gratitude for being allowed to continue helping Britain roll out its 5G networks. But US officials, including Senator Lindsey Graham [R-SC] and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, slammed the decision as a "major defeat" for the United States, among others.