Boris Row with Trump over Huawei Intensifies, Australian MPs Cancel UK Visit

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts as he watches Chinese Lions perform, as he hosts a Chinese New Year reception at 10 Downing Street in central London on January 24, 2020. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

Boris Johnson’s row with U.S. President Trump and other key allies over Huawei has intensified, with Australian MPs cancelling a trip to Britain amid rising tensions.

Prime Minister Johnson’s decision to allow the Chinese tech giant to participate in the construction of Britain’s 5G infrastructure — at its “periphery” rather than its “core”, his administration insists — has caused a rift with allies who believe the company is in thrall to China’s ruling Communist Party and represents a significant security risk.

Richard Grenell, the President’s no-nonsense ambassador to Germany, tweeted that President Trump had “called me from Air Force One and instructed me to make clear that any nation who choose to use an untrustworthy 5G vendor will jeopardise our ability to share intelligence and information at the highest level”.

Ambassador Grenell’s message was also a clear warning to Germany, which is also mulling Chinese involvement in 5G infrastructure — and insisted it was not bullying but right and proper for the United States to make it clear it would not share intelligence to the same extent with allies it believes are compromised.

Responding to criticism from Germany’s Die Linke (The Left) party, Grenell said it was unreasonable to expect U.S. intelligence-sharing to “continue as usual even when you make dangerous mistakes.”

We get to have our own policy too. Don’t assume we don’t get to react to your policy,” he warned.

“I find it offensive that you think the U.S. co-operation must stay the same no matter what you do. We call that taking us for granted.”

Britain’s membership of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network which encompasses the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada is arguably its most important security alliance — and it is not just the Americans who believe Johnson’s entanglement with Huawei may turn the British into a liability.

Parliamentarians from the former British colony’s intelligence and security committee cancelled a trip to Britain, following a row over leaked details of a meeting between the British foreign secretary and his Australian counterpart over Huawei.

“How would you feel if the Russians laid down infrastructure in your own networks? That’s how we feel about Huawei,” the Australians had warned, taking the side of the U.S. administration.

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