A group of senior US senators are urging the UK to reconsider allowing Huawei to build part of its 5G mobile networks.
In a letter to MPs, the group of US politicians – including both Democrats and Republicans – expressed their “significant concern” with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to hand the Chinese company an infrastructure role.
Critics allege Huawei has close links to the Chinese government and its equipment could be used for espionage purposes – something the company has always denied.
To our friends & allies in the UK:
Chinese companies are compelled to support & cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party
With security, privacy, & economic threats Huawei poses—we urge the UK to revisit its decision to allow Huawei to supply some of the UK’s 5G infrastructure pic.twitter.com/9BLG0mJ3oJ
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 4, 2020
US President Donald Trump has put trade restrictions on Huawei and previously suggested future intelligence-sharing cooperation with America’s “Five Eyes” allies – the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – could be put at risk if the UK worked with the firm.
Mr Trump was reported to have been “apoplectic” with Mr Johnson in a phone call last month, after the UK pushed ahead with allowing Huawei to build 5G networks.
It came after Mr Johnson confirmed Huawei will be able to build “non-core” parts of the UK’s 5G networks, but with a series of conditions attached on the company’s involvement, including a 35% cap on “high-risk” vendors accessing non-sensitive parts of the network.
In the letter, the senators wrote: “The UK government’s action to curb the activity of high-risk entities like Huawei will not go far enough to mitigate the full landscape of serious security threats.
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“It is our understanding that the security and privacy risks surrounding Huawei technology cannot be effectively mitigated because of the unique software dependencies of 5G.
“While banning companies like Huawei from the UK’s ‘core’ 5G network infrastructure may address some security threats, in practice it could prove very challenging, if not impossible, to separate ‘core’ equipment from that considered to be on the periphery.”
The letter’s signatories include Chuck Schumer, the Democrat leader in the Senate, as well as former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
The group called for the US and UK, along with other allies, to “work together” to devise a strategy to remove Huawei and other “high-risk vendors” from network infrastructure.
They also proposed action to increase investment in domestic supply of mobile systems.
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The letter was sent to MPs ahead of a parliamentary debate on Wednesday about Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G network, which saw a number of Conservative MPs express fury at the government’s decision.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith told Westminster Hall, an annexe to the main House of Commons chamber, that the UK was “in a mess” and had been left “utterly friendless amongst our allies” by the Huawei decision.
He said allowing Huawei to be involved in 5G infrastructure was like Britain having allowed Nazis to be involved in the development of radar in 1939.
“The establishment at the moment in the UK has found itself somehow locked to this Huawei process and we need to break them free,” Mr Duncan Smith added.
“It’s like getting somebody off the addiction to heroin, we need to put them into rehab.”
Fellow Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee, claimed the UK was being used as a “pawn” in China’s geopolitical “game” to divide its opponents.