Trump and Johnson discuss Huawei as sources warn situation could imperil trade deal
Pressure grows for UK to follow US and Australian lead and ban Chinese vendor from mobile network
Donald Trump’s appetite for a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK “could be diminished” if Boris Johnson hands Huawei a contract to help build its 5G network.
Ministers are expected to confirm next week that the Chinese technology will be given the go-ahead to carry out the work.
The American president has repeatedly warned the prime minister not to go with Huawei, with US officials saying last week it "would be madness" to do so while security fears about the company persist.
No.10 announced over the weekend that Johnson and Trump spoke on the phone on Friday.
“They discussed a range of issues, including cooperation to ensure the security of our telecommunications networks,” according to Downing Street.
The prime minister is also under pressure from other western allies, including Australia, which has joined the US in banning Huawei from its own 5G network.
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But a senior government official said Huawei has already been working within the British communications architecture for 15 years, and any risk would be managed by the National Security Council.
In response, a senior US official told the Wall Street Journal: “The appetite for a US-UK trade agreement could be diminished by the UK making the wrong decision on Huawei.”
US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin revealed at the World Economic Forum that he will meet with chancellor Sajid Javid ahead of the decision to discuss his administration’s “significant concerns” about the deal.
Andrew Hastie, chair of the Australian parliament's joint intelligence and security committee, told The Times: “We stand together. 5G is part of the network that will bind us. I’m hopeful the UK makes the same decision as the US and Australia. The last thing we need is cleavage in the relationship.”
But Huawei’s vice-president Victor Zhang said: “Huawei has worked with the UK’s telecoms companies for 15 years and looks forward to supplying the best technologies that help companies like BT and Vodafone fulfil the Government’s commitment to make gigabit broadband available to all.”
The row comes as the UK also prepares to defy US pressure by slapping a digital tax on the likes of Google and Facebook.
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