Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden has confirmed the ban on the addition of new equipment from Huawei to UK 5G networks, and all Huawei components must be removed from Britain’s 5G by 2027. The move came after Five Eyes allies warned of the security risks of using the “effectively state-owned” Chinese tech firm.
Mr Dowden made the announcement in the House of Commons on Tuesday, weeks after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Huawei, barring the sale of American components to the Chinese company over security concerns. It represents a significant reversal by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who agreed in January on a contract for Huawei to build 35 per cent of Britain’s 5G network.
“This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the UK telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run,” the British digital secretary said, according to the BBC. The decision follows a ruling from the National Security Council that Huawei should not be used in any part of Britain’s 5G.
The new restrictions also apply to Huawei’s broadband components.
The judgment officially came as a result of a review conducted by the National Cyber Security Centre, a part of the signals intelligence services GCHQ, which ruled last week that the security of Huawei would be compromised if using any other components than the now-banned American ones. As the U.S. sanctions only affect future equipment, the government will not call for the removal of Huawei from 2G, 3G, or 4G.
While a major step, others have warned that the government’s decision does not go far enough and that the Chinese equipment should be removed sooner and in its entirety.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said on Tuesday: “This is a partial victory. ‘No’ to Huawei is great, but we cannot wait until 2027 for removal of the kit.”
The Guardian reported on Monday that 60 Conservative MPs could rebel against the government over the long delay in the removal of Huawei, calling instead for the end of purchasing all Huawei equipment in the next 12 months — not just 5G — and removing it from all systems by 2026.
However, BT has said that it could take as long as ten years to completely remove Huawei from Britain’s telecommunications infrastructure.
The news comes as the chairman of Huawei UK has reportedly stepped down, according to claims by Sky News. Former BP boss Lord Browne of Madingley had told Reuters last week that there was “no diplomacy here” in the government’s dealings with Huawei.
“The UK has had a very long relationship with China, and I hope it’s not one that they simply throw away,” Lord Browne complained.
The UK stepping back from Huawei, however, represents a positive step towards redressing relationships with other democratic nations, particularly Five Eyes partner the United States, which have expressed concern of communist China becoming too close to the United Kingdom.
Britain is said to be exploring an international partnership comprised of a combination of the Five Eyes, the G7, and India and South Korea to construct an alternative to Huawei. U.S. sources speaking to the Financial Times on Monday said that the UK’s hitherto reluctance to come to a firm decision on Huawei was holding up plans for the proposed Five Eyes-Plus or ‘D10’ union of ten democratic nations.