The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson today said that he would not risk Britain’s national security when deciding on whether to allow Huawei equipment on the 5G network, but pressured critics of the Chinese tech company to suggest what other equipment the UK could use.
Speaking to the BBC, the Prime Minister said: “The British public deserve to have access to the best possible technology… we want to put in gigabit broadband for everybody, now if people oppose one brand or another then they have to tell us what’s the alternative.
“On the other hand let’s be clear, I don’t want as UK Prime Minister to put in any infrastructure that’s going to prejudice our national security or our ability to cooperate with Five Eyes intelligence partners.”
US puts pressure on Johnson to ban Huawei 5G kit
Johnson’s comments come as the US ratcheted up pressure on the UK to ban Huawei 5G equipment from use on the UK’s 5G network and comes ahead of a pending National Security Council decision on to whether allow the companies equipment onto the network.
US officials yesterday flew to the UK to try and influence the impending UK decision saying that if the UK let Huawei into critical infrastructure it would be “nothing short of madness”. The US has consistently pushed against European countries’ use of Huawei equipment claiming that the Chinese government could pressure the company into creating backdoors into western systems.
The US officials reportedly gave the UK a dossier countering claims from UK intelligence services that said it would be safe to use Huawei equipment on non-core parts of the network.
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Huawei has consistently countered the claims, saying it is a private company, and has denied allegations of espionage levelled against it.
Previously Verdict reported that the head of MI5 Andrew Parker had downplayed warnings that the UK’s intelligence-sharing relationship with the US would be hampered by the continued use of Huawei equipment. Parker told that the Financial Times that he had “no reason today to think that” intelligence sharing would be affected.
Intelligence sharing on the line in Huawei row
However, US Lawmakers have last week introduced legislation that would automatically ban any country using Huawei equipment on 5G networks from taking part in US intelligence sharing efforts. The legislation from Republican Tom Cotton reads: “Intelligence of or under the control of the United States, including intelligence products of the intelligence community, may not be shared with any country that permits the operation within its national borders of fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications technology of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.”
Australia, a Five Eyes intelligence partner, banned Huawei equipment in August 2019 following US pressure. New Zealand, another Five Eyes partner, has issued a partial block on the use of Huawei equipment.
There is also pressure from within the UK to ban Huawei equipment from UK 5G, with Conservative MP Bob Seely yesterday writing in Conservative Home that Huawei presents a threat to the UK’s alliances. The MP standing to be chair of the foreign affairs committee wrote: “In this instance, the US is absolutely right. We need to listen to them and other allies such as Australia. Both have banned Chinese high-tech from their 5G networks. We need to do the same to support our Western alliances and to protect our security, our people and our values.
“The blunt reality is that China is a cyber risk and will remain so for years. It has a dreadful reputation for cyberattacks and intellectual property theft against Western and global institutions and firms.
“Huawei itself has been the subject of a US investigation for fraud and commercial espionage. In general, China is becoming more adversarial internationally and less tolerant of dissent domestically.”