Huawei decision expected as PM chairs National Security Council

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to make a decision on whether to allow Huawei to play a major role in Britain’s 5G network amid concerns from the US.

The Prime Minister is due to chair a meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday as he mulls over whether to grant permission for the Chinese technology giant to have involvement in the roll-out of the country’s communications upgrade.

A decision on Huawei is due by the end of the week.

The implementation of 5G is expected to bring with it download speeds 10 times faster than what 4G currently offers.

The impending decision has caused trans-Atlantic tension, after the White House warned Mr Johnson away from adopting Huawei due to security fears.

A number of senior Conservative MPs also voiced concerns during an urgent question in the House of Commons on Monday.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan-Smith said it was “utterly bizarre” to be considering giving Huawei the green light, while Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee in the last parliament, warned that the UK would be “allowing the fox into the hen house” if it gives the company 5G access.

Mr Johnson stressed on Monday that he would not “jeopardise” the UK’s security relationship with the US.

The pronouncement came after senior members of US President Donald Trump’s administration warned that British sovereignty would be put at risk by allowing the firm to play a role in the UK’s 5G infrastructure.

They warned that the Chinese state could put pressure on Huawei to divulge information about the UK’s 5G communications make-up.

Tugendhat Huawei
Tugendhat Huawei

The PM has claimed it would be possible to give Britons access to “fantastic technology” while also protecting “key partnerships with other security powers”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the choice facing the National Security Council as “momentous” in a last-ditch plea to ministers.

The Financial Times reported the meeting is expected to agree the company can play a restricted role, with the Government looking to impose a cap on its market share to prevent over-reliance on its equipment.

The US administration has previously urged allies in the Five Eyes intelligence community – made up of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – not to use Huawei, claiming it would be a security risk – something the company vehemently denies.

The UK has a momentous decision ahead on 5G. British MP Tom Tugendhat gets it right: “The truth is that only nations able to protect their data will be sovereign.”

— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 26, 2020

But Mr Johnson told reporters on Monday: “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have technological progress here in the UK, allow consumers, businesses in the UK to have access to fantastic technology, fantastic communications, but also protect our security interests and protect our key partnerships with other security powers around the world.”

Mr Pompeo, who is due to visit Britain later in the week, said: “The UK has a momentous decision ahead on 5G.”

He retweeted a comment by Mr Tugendhat, in which the MP said: “The real costs will come later if we get this wrong and allow Huawei to run 5G.”

Mr Pompeo added: “British MP Tom Tugendhat gets it right: ‘The truth is that only nations able to protect their data will be sovereign’.”

Washington’s ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, said Mr Tugendhat’s point was “undeniable”, adding that “doing 5G right goes beyond data ‘mitigation’ – it’s about national sovereignty”.