Final pitch to the UK, as America threatens to cut intelligence-sharing with allies if Huawei is used for 5G networks
The United States is said to be stepping up the pressure on the UK government to ban the use of Huawei equipment in 5G networks.
The UK is expected to make a final decision this month about whether to include 5G equipment from the Chinese vendor. The US government has repeatedly warned against using any Huawei equipment on national security grounds.
Under Theresa May, the UK’s National Security Council (NSC) had in April 2019 agreed to allow Huawei limited access to help build parts of the 5G network such as antennas and other “non-core” infrastructure.
But now according to Reuters, the US is firing a ‘shot across the bow’ as it steps up the pressure on the UK ahead of Huawei decision.
The United States is said to be making a final pitch to Britain, amid threats to cut intelligence-sharing ties, people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to press British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab over Huawei at a meeting in Washington on Thursday, the sources said.
Earlier this year Pompeo warned US allies that “America may not be able to operate in certain environments if there is Huawei technology adjacent to that”.
Ahead of the British decision, Washington had also planned to send a delegation, including deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, to meet with British officials this week, sources told Reuters.
But the trip was cancelled at the last minute, two of the people said, due to bad weather.
Last month, the United States also passed legislation that included a provision bolstering threats to restrict intelligence-sharing with allies that use Huawei equipment.
Washington is seen to be “cocking the pistol,” said a person with knowledge of the British government’s position on Huawei. “What’s unclear is how, when or indeed if it will actually be fired.”
Huawei meanwhile has consistently denied it poses a national security risk, and last June the Chinese ambassador to the UK warned that excluding Huawei from Britain’s 5G network “sends a very bad signal” to other Chinese firms looking to invest in the UK.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has still to reach a decision. Last month he warned that Huawei may still be excluded from UK 5G networks.
The Prime Minister in December cast doubt on whether the UK would allow Huawei to invest in its 5G network, and suggested it could “prejudice” the Five Eyes intelligence relationship.
The five eyes relationship sees the United States, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand share intelligence information between them.
The comments made in December were his strongest signal so far that he is prepared to potentially shut Huawei out of the network.
But it should be noted that Huawei equipment is already in use in the UK’s existing 5G networks.
Indeed, three of the UK’s largest wireless providers (EE, Vodafone, and Three) are all using Huawei to build their 5G networks.
The only exception to this is O2, which has instead opted to use 5G equipment from Ericsson and Nokia.
So any decision to ban completely the Chinese firm will require the equipment to be retroactively removed from the 5G networks built so far by Vodafone, EE, and Three.
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