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Tue, 11 August 2020

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Tory MPs tell Boris Johnson Huawei’s role in UK telecoms should end ‘altogether’ as decision looms

Tory MPs tell Boris Johnson Huawei’s role in UK telecoms should end ‘altogether’ as decision looms

The Chinese telecoms firm has said it is in a fight for ‘survival’ after US sanctions. (PA)

3 min read

Boris Johnson has been urged to end Chinese firm Huawei’s role in UK telecoms “altogether” as the Government prepares to perform a u-turn on Britain’s 5G network.

A group of ten Tory MPs have written to the Prime Minister ahead of an expected announcement on Tuesday saying they “fervently hope you will end Huawei’s ability to supply the UK’s critical national infrastructure”.

And they warn the Prime Minister not to countenance an “unreasonable delay” in stripping the telecoms company out of the UK’s network completely.

The Government announced in January that Huawei — which has denied having close ties with the Chinese government — would have a non-core role in Britain's 5G supply.

Under the plans, its involvement will be capped at 35% of the network’s peripheral technology, such as radio masts.

But that came despite fierce opposition from the United States, which has banned Huawei from its own network over security concerns. 

The US has since moved to impose sweeping sanctions on Huawei, a move the telecoms firm has said has left it fighting for “survival”.

Mr Johnson will chair a meeting of the Government’s national security committee on Tuesday morning before Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden makes a Commons statement on the future of the company’s involvement in the UK. 

The Times reports that ministers will consider ending the purchase of new Huawei equipment for the 5G network from January, with plans to remove it entirely from UK infrastructure by 2027.

But, in a letter to Mr Johnson, seen by the title and led by former Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith, the group of ten MPs warn: ”Knowing how lightly China takes the assurances it has given, many colleagues are even more uncomfortable about a role for Huawei in our networks. Given that, we fervently hope you will end Huawei’s ability to supply the UK’s critical national infrastructure.”

And they add: “We do not believe it is possible for the UK to have both secure networks and a role for Huawei within them.

"It remains the case that, under China’s national intelligence law, Huawei is obliged to co-operate with Chinese intelligence and to deny that it does so. The nature of Chinese law is such that Huawei is — to all intents and purposes — a state-owned enterprise.”

The group say they will “work constructively” with the Government as its Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill makes its way through parliament.

But they warn the Prime Minister that “any such bill needs to be predicated on ending altogether the role for high-risk vendors”.

“By doing so, the government has an opportunity to safeguard the interests of the UK while projecting clearly our values and leading the free world,” the group adds.

Mr Johnson suffered a major backbench rebellion over the Chinese firm in March, with 36 Tory MPs voting for an amendment to the bill which would banned its involvement in the 5G network after 2022.

The warning comes after BT chief executive Philip Jansen said it would be “impossible” to remove Huawei technoligy from the UK’s telecoms infrastructure in less than ten years.

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