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Tue, 22 September 2020

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Mike Pompeo jets into Britain amid mounting US and Tory anger over Huawei 5G role

Mike Pompeo jets into Britain amid mounting US and Tory anger over Huawei 5G role
3 min read

The US Secretary of State is flying into London for talks amid mounting American and Tory backbench anger over the decision to allow Huawei to help run the UK's 5G network.

Mike Pompeo - who has previously warned Britain not to let the Chinese firm play a role in the fast communications link -  will sit down with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab a day after ministers gave the green-light to the company.

The US State Department said Mr Pompeo's visit would "reaffirm the Special Relationship following the UK’s departure from the EU and discuss ways to broaden and deepen trade ties".

But the top US diplomat has already thrown his weight behind Tory critics of the decision to allow Huawei a 'non-core' role in the network.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has promised to exclude the firm - which it has deemed a “high risk vendor” - from all “safety related and safety critical networks" in a bid to calm security fears.

They said the Chinese firm would not be granted access to more than 35% of the "non-sensitive" parts of the network.

But Conservative backbenchers lined up to denounce the move in the House of Commons on Tuesday, with former Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt saying the UK "must never find itself in this position ever again". 

Boris Johnson moved to heal the rift with the United States over the issue in a phone call with Donald Trump on Tuesday.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "The Prime Minister underlined the importance of like-minded countries working together to diversify the market and break the dominance of a small number of companies."

The call came as two Cabinet ministers reported to have doubts about the decision to allow Huawei a role in the network insisted they were "fully" supportive.

Writing in The Times, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the Government was "not naive" about China's record of "hacking and cyber theft".

But he added: "Our world leading, tough, regulatory approach protects our national security interests while allowing Britain to seize the opportunity that 5G will bring to our economy.

"We are guided by the best experts in the world and the public should be in no doubt that ministers will protect the security of this nation."

Home Secretary Priti Patel meanwhile used a piece in The Telegraph to talk up her record of "keeping the United Kingdom safe", as she acknowledged that she was "instinctively sceptical about letting Huawei build some elements of the UK’s next-generation communications network".

"But it is that very same commitment to the UK’s safety and security – a commitment both unshakeable and unquestionable – that led to me fully supporting the decision taken by the Prime Minister and his National Security Council," Ms Patel added.

"A decision that will make our communications more secure, our nation safer, and our economy stronger."


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