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Government to award 5G contract to Huawei ‘next week’ in snub to Donald Trump

2 min read

Boris Johnson is set to award the contract to help build part of the UK’s 5G network to Huawei as soon as next week in a snub to Donald Trump.

The American president has repeatedly warned the Prime Minister not to go with the Chinese firm over security risks, with US officials saying last week it "would be madness" to do so.

But a senior Government official said Huawei has already been working within the British communications architecture for 15 years, and any risk is managed by the National Security Council.

It would also cost billions to go with another supplier and significantly delay the rollout of super-fast mobile internet, they explained.

The official also criticised the American government for failing to come up with any alternatives, saying they went to Silicon Valley to ask if there were any other suppliers who could do the work, adding: “The answer from the US was a shake of the head.”

They said the UK and the US have very different systems, and Huawei has not been involved on the other side of the Atlantic.

Commenting on the decision by Mr Trump to place restrictions on the company, which Australia has also done, the official said Britain is “already building upon existing networks, so the decision is very different to the US”.

They added that excluding them “has significant implications in terms of cost and time to roll out 5G and high-speed broadband”, which would run into “billions”.

A decision is now “far more likely next week than not”, although earlier in response to whether a report by Reuters that UK officials had agreed Huawei will be awarded the contract was true, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that was not the case.

He added: “The work on the issue of high-risk vendors in the 5G network remains ongoing and when its completed it will be announced to Parliament.”

The UK is still being lobbied hard to not give the contract to Huawei, with the White House saying it presents a serious security risk to the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network used by the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

US Treasury secretary Stephen Mnuchin revealed he will come to London for last-ditch talks with Sajid Javid over the weekend to discuss “significant concerns” about the firm with the Chancellor.

And senior Australian MP Andrew Hastie, chairman of his parliament’s joint intelligence and security committee, told The Times: “I’m hopeful the UK makes the same decision as the US and Australia.

“Our government took a bold decision on 5G. The last thing we need is cleavage in the relationship.”

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