British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is scheduled to meet senior ministers on Tuesday to decide on whether the UK will allow China’s Huawei to participate in building the country’s critical 5G mobile infrastructure.
The United States views Huawei as a company of particular concern and it sees Huawei’s participation in building a critical infrastructure as akin to allowing the fox into the hen house. This generation defining decision can potentially lead to anything from theft of British intellectual property to geopolitical blackmail, endangering Britain’s economy, and the country’s security.
No wonder Johnson is under pressure to block Huawei since the access to the 5G network will allow Beijing to spy on the country and essentially jeopardize the existing intelligence sharing mechanism between London and Washington.
Last week, sources with knowledge of the matter had said, senior British officials had come up with a proposal of granting Huawei a limited role in its 5G network. This “calculated compromise” can be presented to Washington as a tough restriction but also be accepted by British operators who have already invested in Huawei’s equipment.
“We are going to come up with a solution that enables us to achieve both those objectives,” said Johnson.
British intelligence officials have criticized Huawei for failing to address security flaws in its equipment; these can be exploited for espionage purposes.
“There’s a disconnect between a political conversation and a technical one, which is making it very hard for the UK to move forward on this issue,” said Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director-general of the Royal United Services Institute and an adviser to parliament’s joint committee on national security strategy.
The debate over Huawei’s role in 5G networks has split opinion in capitals across Europe, with politicians weighing the U.S.-led arguments against lucrative trade ties with China.
Last year, former Prime Minister Theresa May had agreed, before she left office, to block Huawei from all core parts of the 5G network but to give it restricted access to non-core parts.