Pushing back against pressure from the United States, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that those opposing products from Huawei must come up with an “alternative solution” to the Chinese company’s telecommunications technology.
“The British public deserve to have access to the best possible technology,” Johnson said in an interview on the BBC’s Breakfast program.
“We want to put in gigabit broadband for everybody. Now if people oppose one brand or another, then they have to tell us what’s the alternative.
“On the other hand, let’s be clear, I don’t want, as the UK prime minister, to put in any infrastructure that is going to prejudice our national security or our ability to cooperate with Five Eyes intelligence partners,” he added in reference to the shared intelligence network between the US, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
A US delegation led by Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger, meeting senior British officials in London on Monday, warned the UK government it “would be madness” to adopt Huawei’s technology in the UK’s emerging 5G mobile network.
The visit is seen as the latest effort by US President Donald Trump’s administration to lobby the British government ahead of a decision expected this month on whether to limit the use of Huawei’s technology in the 5G network, according to a BBC report.
Andrew Parker, the head of British intelligence service MI5, said involvement by Huawei in the development of the network would not affect its intelligence relationships with the other Five Eyes members.
Asked whether he felt that the UK would lose out on security ties if the government continued to work with Huawei, Parker said he has “no reason today to think that”.
He told the Financial Times that the government’s decision was made harder as there are few options in the 5G market.
“Perhaps the thing that needs more focus and more discussion is how do we get to a future where there’s a wider range of competition and a wider range of sovereign choices than defaulting to a yes or no about Chinese technology,” Parker said.
According to the paper, Parker’s remarks will raise expectations in the UK government and industry circles that Huawei equipment will be allowed to participate in some “non-core” areas of the network.
At present, four main mobile network operators in Britain－Vodafone, BT, EE and Three－are using Huawei products to launch their 5G services, while excluding the company from involvement in “core” parts of their networks, including with customer information and communication routes.
Last year, due to trade tensions between the US and China, the US banned companies from selling supporting components and technology to Huawei, citing national security risks.
Washington’s pressure on London over Huawei comes as a long-awaited phase-one part of a trade deal between China and the US has been reached. The deal is expected to be inked this month in the US.