Government plans to expunge Huawei from 5G network by 2023, reports claim

Written by Eleanor Langford on 26 May 2020 in News
News

Prime minister plans to backtrack on previous decision to allow Chinese giant to play a role in next-generation telecoms

Credit: Andre M. Chang/Zuma Press/PA Images

Officials have confirmed that the government plans to phase out Huawei technology from UK telecoms infrastructure over the next three years.

The major U-turn comes after Tory MPs put pressure on Boris Johnson to ensure the Chinese company had no role in the country’s 5G network over fears it could compromise national security.

Huawei was granted a limited role in providing 5G technology to the UK earlier this year, although it is only allowed to supply equipment to the “periphery” of the network – where its kit must never account for more than 35% of the total.

The company’s involvement attracted major concern from backbench Conservatives, whose rebel amendment intended to ban Huawei from UK networks was only narrowly defeated in March.


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The UK’s international allies have also criticised the plans, with US resident Donald Trump branding it a “betrayal”. 

On Friday, The Telegraph reported that the prime minister had caved to his critics and had instructed aides to put together plans to remove the Chinese telecoms giant.

A source told the paper: “[The PM] still wants a relationship with China but the Huawei deal is going to be significantly scaled back. Officials have been instructed to come up with a plan to reduce Huawei’s involvement as quickly as possible. He has taken a great many soundings from his own MPs on this issue and shares their serious concerns. The deal was struck before the pandemic hit, but coronavirus has changed everything.”

The government now faces more pressure to extend the proposed measures and set a date for when the plans will reach the Commons.

Tory MP Neil O’Brien told the Financial Times: “It’s a decision that everyone in the world is having... Covid-19 is just accelerating things. We need to make a distinction between having an open economy and interactions with the Chinese state.”

Meanwhile, chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee Tom Tugendhat wrote in the paper: “In a downturn, the difference between state-backed credit and the buying power of normal commercial investors will become starker, further strengthening the hand of state-owned enterprises. If we’re not careful, much of the intellectual property we will need for our long-term innovation and prosperity could disappear to Shanghai or Shenzhen.”

 

About the author

Eleanor Langford is a reporter for PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHome, where this story first appeared. She tweets as @eleanormia.

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