US delegation set to arrive in UK on Monday, as MI5 chief dismisses risk that allowing Huawei would threaten intelligence sharing
Andrew Parker, the head of MI5, has said he has “no reason” to think that the UK’s intelligence sharing arrangements with the US would be threatened if the UK allows the use of Huawei technology in 5G networks.
Parker’s remarks to the Financial Times come as a high-level US delegation is set to arrive in the UK on Monday to lobby the government over the issue.
MI5’s Parker said US-UK intelligence sharing was “very close and trusted”, adding: “It is, of course, of great importance to us. And, I dare say, to the US too, though that’s for them to say. It is a two-way street.”
The government is expected to deliver a final decision on Huawei as early as this month, following long delays.
The US alleges Huawei technology could be used for spying purposes by the Chinese government, something Huawei has repeatedly denied.
British national security officials have taken the stance that any risk could be managed, while telecoms companies have warned that barring Huawei would cost them billions, as they would be forced to remove existing Huawei equipment.
The government’s security council provisionally agreed last spring to allow Huawei equipment in 5G antennas and other “non-core” parts of the network.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has given mixed signals on the matter, saying at the NATO summit last month that he didn’t want the UK to be hostile to foreign investment, while also saying the impact on intelligence sharing was critical to what action the government would take.
“On the other hand, we cannot prejudice our vital national security interests, nor can we prejudice our ability to cooperate with other Five Eyes (US, New Zealand Australia and Canada) security partners,” Johnson said at the time. “That will be the key criterion that informs our decision about Huawei.”
The US has heavily lobbied UK officials over Huawei, and US secretary of state Mike Pompeo was expected to press British foreign secretary Dominic Raab over the matter during a meeting in Washington earlier this month.
Earlier this year Pompeo publicly warned that the US “may not be able to operate in certain environments if there is Huawei technology adjacent to that”.
A delegation including US deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger is expected to arrive in the UK on Monday as the US makes its final play over the Chinese telecoms giant, according to reports.