UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to start excluding the use of Huawei technology in the country’s 5G network this year "in a major about-turn", The Telegraph reports.
The newspaper referred to a report by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)’s National Cyber Security Centre which claims that US sanctions against Huawei has had a "severe" impact on the firm and will prompt the Chinese telecom giant to use "untrusted" technology.
The report, which is expected to be presented to Johnson later on Sunday, said that GCHQ officials are drawing up proposals to stop installing new Huawei equipment in the UK’s 5G infrastructure "in as little as six months", also speeding up "the removal of technology that is already in place", according to The Telegraph.
The UK’s Health Minister Matt Hancock has, meanwhile, said that he wouldn’t comment “on leaks of that kind”, adding, ”what I can say is that when we came out with an interim report on this earlier in the year, there are a number of conditions that needed to be met”.
He expressed confidence that "the National Security Council will look at those conditions, and make the right decision on this, to make sure that we have both a very strong telecoms infrastructure […] but also that it is secure”.
The developments come after The Telegraph cited unnamed sources as saying in late May that Johnson was considering slashing Huawei’s role in the country’s 5G network rollout.
"He [Johnson] still wants a relationship with China but the Huawei deal is going to be significantly scaled back. Officials have been instructed to come up with a plan to reduce Huawei's involvement as quickly as possible", the source claimed.
Huawei UK chief Victor Zhang, for his part, slammed those who "choose to continue to attack us without presenting any evidence", and warned that disrupting Huawei’s "involvement in the 5G rollout would do Britain a disservice".
"[Our] priority has been to help mobile and broadband companies keep Britain connected, which in this current health crisis has been more vital than ever. This is our proven track record", Zhang underscored, in an apparent reference to the ongloing COVID-19 pandemic.
London Okays Huawei's Role in UK’s 5G Network
London has been under significant pressure from Washington since announcing in February that the UK would, with conditions, allow Huawei to assist in building the 5G network in the country.
The British government made it clear at the time that the Chinese tech giant would be excluded from the UK 5G network’s "core" parts, such as safety-related and safety-critical areas, e.g. military bases.
US Crackdown on Huawei
Washington has repeatedly warned London that permitting Huawei to take part in developing the country’s 5G network would put the US-UK intelligence-sharing agreements at risk, and threatened to downgrade bilateral security cooepration.
The US has also urged other countries to refrain from using Huawei equipment when adopting 5G network technology, as part of its pressure campaign on the Chinese tech behemoth.
Despite the clampdown, Huawei touted a "solid business performance" in its 2019 Annual Report, with the company’s sales topping $123 billion and net profits reaching $9 billion.