The head of MI5, Sir Andrew Parker, has said he has "no reason to think" the UK's intelligence relationship with America will suffer if Britain decides to adopted the Chinese company Huawei’s technology in its 5G mobile phone network.
Parker gave an interview for the Financial Times as a key decision on the issue looms and the US is preparing to make a final move to change the UK's mind on the Huawei issue.
Sir Andrew, who is stepping down as director-general of MI5 in April, dismissed concerns regarding an impaired intelligence partnership between the allies, saying links in the “five eyes” between Britain, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were “the strongest they’ve been”.
He also emphasised the US-UK partnership was “very close and trusted”, adding:
“It is, of course, of great importance to us. And, I dare say, to the US too, though that’s for them to say. It is a two-way street.”
When asked specifically whether he thought that the U’s intelligence relationships would be impaired if the government decided to go ahead with Huawei, he said:
“I’ve no reason today to think that.”
According to Parker, security concerns alone should not always “dominate and dictate” a decision, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his national security council were facing a difficult decision since there were so few suppliers in the market.
“Perhaps the thing that needs more focus and more discussion is how do we get to a future where there’s a wider range of competition and a wider range of sovereign choices than defaulting to a yes or no about Chinese technology,” Sir Andrew Parker said.
Last-minute US Lobbying
On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government was set to face last-minute lobbying from Washington to exclude Huawei from the country’s 5G network, as the UK’s National Security Council is set to decide later this month on the Huawei issue.
A US delegation comprising representatives from the National Economic Council and National Security Agency was expected to arrive in London as Washington has warned that if Chinese technology is used by the UK, then intelligence sharing could be undermined.
The US has long maintained that Huawei’s telecommunications equipment may be designed to spy on foreign corporations and countries on behalf of the Chinese government.
Huawei has vehemently denied those claims.
The United States and two of its partners in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, Australia and New Zealand, have fully banned Huawei from their 5G communication networks, citing security risks.
The Trump administration has doubled-down on warnings to Canada and the UK – its two remaining Five Eyes allies, which have yet to decide on Huawei.
In an interview to The Telegraph published on Sunday, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace revealed that the US had explicitly threatened to cut off their intelligence-sharing partnership if Huawei is allowed to take part in the UK's 5G build-up.
In spite of US pressure, some inside the UK government and within the telecoms industry expect Johnson to reach a decision similar to the one taken by ex-Prime Minister Theresa May’s national security council in April 2019, when it was agreed to allow Huawei to build some “non-core” parts of the network.
All four mobile networks in Britain have now launched 5G with Vodafone, BT, EE and Three all using the Chinese company’s equipment at the so-called non-core level - the antennas and base stations used on masts and rooftops - but not in the “core” network operations where customer details are held and calls are routed, writes the publication.