Boris Johnson under pressure to block Huawei 5G access as US warns granting access would be ‘madness’

Ashley Cowburn
BBC Breakfast

Boris Johnson has resisted US pressure to rule out allowing Huawei access to the UK’s 5G communications network, after Washington warned it “would be madness” to do so.

A final decision on whether or not to allow the Chinese telecommunications giant access to “non-core” parts of the mobile network is expected from Downing Street in “due course”.

Granting Huawei involvement in Britain’s network, however, would put the UK on collision course with Donald Trump, who has repeatedly issued warnings over security concerns involving the company.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Johnson insisted he would not risk Britain’s security when upgrading the nations 5G communications network and challenged critics to come up with an “alternative” provider.

Appearing on BBC Breakfast, he added: “The British public deserve to have access to the best possible technology. I have talked about infrastructure and technology, we want to put in gigabit broadband for everybody.

“If people oppose one brand or another, then they have to tell us which is the alternative, right? On the other hand, let’s be clear, I don’t want as UK prime minister to put in any infrastructure that will prejudice infrastructure that will prejudice our national security or ability to cooperate with intelligence partners.”

Foreign Office minister Andrew Stephenson said a final decision will be "taken in due course", adding: "The government will consider the full range of risks when making this decision."

The upgrade from 4G to 5G will revolutionise mobile internet capabilities, with consumers able to download a two-hour film in less than four seconds - well under the six minutes it takes on the 4G network.

But stepping up efforts to prevent Downing Street from allowing Huawei access to the network, a US delegation, led by deputy security adviser Matt Pottinger, met with UK ministers in London and Monday and reportedly presented new technical information.

The Guardian claimed the US officials said it “would be nothing short of madness” to grant the Chinese telecoms giant access to network while another said: “Donald Trump is watching closely.”

It comes after the Conservative MP Bob Seely called for the foreign affairs committee at Westminster to open an immediate investigation into Huawei's suitability for use in Britain's 5G network.

Mr Seely said Huawei "to all intents and purposes is part of the Chinese state" and a deal with the tech giant would allow Beijing to access the UK's network.

A member of the foreign affairs committee in the last parliament, Mr Seely added that it is "an extraordinarily important issue" on which the Government should be listening to the US and Australia.

He told MPs during the Queen's Speech debate that Huawei is "the subject of US investigation for fraud and commercial espionage".

Mr Seely continued: "Huawei, to all intents and purposes, is part of the Chinese state and allowing Huawei a role in the 5G network is effectively to allow China and its agencies access to our network, and to say otherwise is simply false."

Responding to Mr Johnson's remarks, Victor Zhang, the vice president of Huawei, said: “We strongly agree with the Prime Minister that ‘the British public deserve to have access to the best possible technology’. That is why we invested more than $15 billion last year in research and development to ensure our customers receive just that. Huawei has worked with the UK’s telecoms companies for 15 years and looks forward to supplying the best technologies that help companies like BT and Vodafone fulfil the government’s commitment to make gigabit broadband available to all.

“We are confident that the UK government will make a decision based upon evidence, as opposed to unsubstantiated allegations."

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