Reports have circulated that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will call for Chinese-controlled Huawei to be locked out from Britain’s 5G by the end of this year, after the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) concluded that the products are not secure.
The NCSC made the ruling that Huawei’s technology was not safe to use, in light of U.S. sanctions that block the Chinese tech firm from using American components. The prospect of Huawei using alternative components, certainly Chinese, “fundamentally changes” the situation, according to a Whitehall source speaking to The Times.
Government ministers who sit on the National Security Council will be asked to draw up plans calling for the cessation of buying new Huawei products for Britain’s 5G by the end of this year. Telecoms infrastructure providers will be expected to remove the Chinese equipment from their 5G by no later than 2027, with a review to follow into 3G and 4G.
Sources speaking to The Telegraph have also said that Mr Johnson is preparing to phase out Huawei in the UK.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed on Monday morning that he is in receipt of the report, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re now examining it and understanding the implications of it.”
Speaking to LBC later on, Mr Dowden said that he would make a statement to Parliament before the House of Commons rises for Summer recess on July 22nd.
Intelligence allies have asked the British government to reconsider its decision for months, warning that the “effectively state-owned” Chinese company was a security threat, capable of building a “backdoor” into British telecommunications systems to facilitate spying for Beijing.
Tory government infighting has erupted over Prime Minister Johnson’s January decision to allow the tech firm to build 35 per cent of Britain’s 5G network.
Former UK Spy Chief Tells Security Services: Don’t Dismiss Theory Coronavirus Came from Chinese Lab https://t.co/a2YhY2wG75
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 6, 2020
The reports should appease members of the China Research Group, headed up by Tom Tugendhat who said: “The NCSC’s re-evaluation of the risk Huawei poses as a supplier matches the strength of feeling in the parliamentary party and, from China Research Group polling, across the whole country. The government’s change of heart is very welcome.”
However, former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith thinks the deadlines do not come soon enough. Tory MPs are reportedly preparing a rebellion unless 5G is removed from Britain’s systems by 2023.
“This is unacceptable. It means essentially that companies will still be able to go ahead with Huawei. It needs to be out of our system before the end of this parliament,” Sir Iain said.
Ministers have also reportedly agreed with that Britain should work with other Five Eyes intelligence allies Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States to develop alternative technologies. Reports from last month suggested that Johnson’s government was already in talks with Japanese NEC and was exploring negotiations with South Korea’s Samsung about diversifying the UK’s technology options.
A senior source told The Times that in the current relationship struggles with China over Hong Kong and the coronavirus pandemic, “No one is in the mood to tread softly with China.”