BORIS JOHNSON has said the government would have to think carefully about the role China’s Huawei plays in Britain because he does not want the country to be “vulnerable to a high risk state vendor”.
Britain had granted Huawei a limited role in its future 5G networks in January, but officials at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) have since studied the impact of US sanctions on the company that were announced in May.
“I’m very determined to get broadband into every part of this country,” the prime minister told reporters on Monday (6). “I’m also determined that the UK should not be in any way vulnerable to a high risk state vendor so we have to think carefully about how we handle that.
“We have to come up with the right technological solutions but also we will have to make sure that we can continue to deliver the broadband that the UK needs.”
Earlier in the day, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said he had received the NCSC report and there would be a “significant” impact on Huawei’s 5G role, stressing that the decision to grant the Chinese firm a role in building UK’s 5G network was not “fixed in stone”.
“We constantly review our security to ensure we have the best possible security for our telecoms network,” he added.
A Financial Times report on Sunday said the government could decide this month to phase out the Chinese technology giant’s equipment because of persistent concerns about spying.
A UK security investigation, yet to be published, has raised “very, very serious” questions over Huawei’s 5G role in Britain, the daily added.
Johnson has been under intense pressure from the US, and members of his own ruling Conservative Party, to cut ties with Huawei.
US officials have maintained the company could spy on Western communications or simply shut down the UK network under orders from Beijing — a charge denied by Huawei.
Huawei’s position was complicated further by Washington’s decision to roll out a new wave of sanctions to cripple the company’s production of the chips used in 5G.
The prime minister’s spokesman said an update would be given to Parliament before the summer recess begins on July 22.
“If the US impose sanctions, which they have done, we believe that could have a significant impact on the reliability of Huawei equipment and whether we can use it safely,” he said.
Meanwhile, Beijing’s top envoy in London, Liu Xiaoming, suggested any move to axe Huawei would be an example of Britain succumbing to “foreign pressure”.
“We want to be your friend, we want to be your partner but if you want to make China a hostile country you have to bear the consequences,” he added.
Notably, British relations with China have already been strained by Beijing’s decision to approve a new national security law in Hong Kong.
Britain described the draconian law as a “clear and serious” violation of the 1984 Joint Declaration under which it handed back its colony to China 13 years later, and said London would offer around three million residents a path to British citizenship.
Xiaoming said the UK government “keeps making irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong affairs”, adding that China would decide on its response after seeing how Britain proceeded with its passport offer.