Pompeo Assures Johnson Huawei Decision Won’t Affect U.S. Relations, UK at ‘Front of the Line’ for Trade Deal

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – JANUARY 30: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is welcomed by Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson as they meet at Downing Street on January 30, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. The U.S. Secretary of State is on a two-day visit to the U.K to discuss a …
Tolga Akmen– WPA Pool/Getty Images

The United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reassured Prime Minister Boris Johnson that his decision to involve Chinese firm Huawei in developing Britain’s 5G network will not harm U.S.-UK relations.

Mr Pompeo met with Prime Minister Johnson on Thursday at Number 10 Downing Street, as the UK prepares to leave the EU on Friday.

While communicating American concerns about Huawei’s involvement, the secretary of state played down concerns it could affect intelligence sharing of the Five Eyes (the UK, U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).

Speaking with foreign secretary Dominic Raab ahead of his meeting with the prime minister, Mr Pompeo said: “That relationship is deep. It is strong, it will remain.”

“We were trying to make the case, as we made the case with every country in the world, that we think putting Huawei technology anywhere in your system is very, very difficult to mitigate and therefore not worth the gamble,” Mr Pompeo said.

“But as we move forward together to make sure that next generation of technology is right, is secure and operates a under a Western set of values and system, we’ll get to the right place,” he added.

Mr Pompeo also said: “The previous administration took the view that if the United Kingdom made this decision it would be at the back of the line. We intend to put the United Kingdom at the front of the line.”

In the past 24 hours, there were indications that the U.S. would more strongly beseech the United Kingdom to reconsider its decision to allow Huawei to work on its 5G network.

In a meeting on Wednesday, Mr Pompeo had told Mr Raab that Boris Johnson should “relook” his controversial decision.

“We were urging them (the UK) to make a decision that was different than the one they made and we’ll have a conversation about how to proceed,” he said per the BBC.

“There is also a chance for the UK to relook at this as implementation moves forward, and then it’s important for everyone to know there is also real work being done by lots of private companies inside the U.S. and in Europe to make sure that there are true competitors to Huawei,” added Pompeo.

“We will make sure that when American information passes across a network we are confident that that network is a trusted one,” warned the secretary of state.

Boris Johnson’s decision on Huawei still needs approval from the House of Commons; however, at least 40 Conservative MPs would need to break with the prime minister to block the legislation.

Mr Johnson told MPs that his decision was based on delivering the “best technology available”, but added that the UK must not do anything “to imperil our relationship with the United States, to do anything to compromise our critical national security infrastructure, or to do anything to imperil our extremely valuable co-operation with Five Eyes security partners”.

One backbencher MP told The Times: “My hunch is that they think they can defend the military net, GCHQ, the agencies and that stuff. The problem is they’re leaving the rest of it open. Medical records, when you put the kettle on — everything will be ‘on air’ in 5G.”

There are currently discussions being had amongst Members of Parliament to introduce amendments to the Huawei proposal, including blocking access within the City of London over fears that the Chinese company could disrupt market trading in the UK. Other possible amendments include capping the market share for Huawei, as well as government funding of competing network companies. However, Mr Johnson could attempt to introduce legislation that would block such amendments.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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