Pushing back against pressure from the United States, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday that those opposing Huawei’s products and technology must come up with an “alternative” solution.
“The British public deserve to have access to the best possible technology,” said Johnson. “We want to put in gigabit broadband for everybody. Now if people oppose one brand or another then they have to tell us what’s the alternative,” he told the BBC Breakfast program.
“On the other hand, let’s be clear, I don’t want, as the UK prime minister, to put in any infrastructure that is going to prejudice our national security or our ability to cooperate with Five Eyes intelligence partners,” he added in reference to the shared intelligence network between the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
A US delegation led by Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger met with senior British officials in London on Monday and warned the UK government it “would be madness” to adopt Huawei’s technology in UK’s 5G network.
It is being seen as the latest effort by US President Donald Trump’s administration to lobby the British government as it is expected to make a decision on Huawei in its future 5G network within this month, according to a BBC report.
Andrew Parker, head of Britain’s intelligence service MI5, said the UK adopting Huawei would not affect its intelligence relationships with the other Five Eyes members.
Asked whether he felt that the UK would lose out on security ties if the government continued with Huawei, Parker said he has “no reason today to think that”.
He told the Financial Times the decision was made harder as there are few options in the 5G market.
“Perhaps the thing that needs more focus and more discussion is how do we get to a future where there’s a wider range of competition and a wider range of sovereign choices than defaulting to a yes or no about Chinese technology,” Parker said.
According to the paper, Parker’s remarks will raise expectation in UK government and industry circles that Huawei equipment will be allowed to participate in some “non-core” business.
At present, four main mobile network operators in Britain — Vodafone, BT, EE and Three — are using Huawei products to launch their 5G services, while limiting Huawei in “core” parts of their networks including with customer information and communication routes.
Last year, due to trade tensions between the US and China, the US banned companies from selling supporting components and technology to Huawei, citing national security risks.
Washington’s pressure on London over Huawei comes as a long-awaited phase-one part of a trade deal between China and the US has been reached. The deal is expected to be inked later this month in the US.