As reported in the Times:
Boris Johnson is fighting a battle on two fronts over his decision to approve Huawei’s role in the UK’s 5G mobile network.
Senior Conservatives have written to Tory MPs to raise concerns about the government’s decision to allow the Chinese telecoms giant to play a role in the country’s 5G structure, as the US vice-president, Mike Pence, hinted that Britain may have jeopardised a trade deal with America.
Pence said the White House was “profoundly disappointed” by Mr Johnson’s decision to allow Huawei to install kit at the “edge” of 5G.
He told the American broadcaster CNBC: “When I went [to the UK] at the president’s direction in September, I met Prime Minister Johnson and I told him the moment the UK was out of Brexit, we were willing to begin to negotiate a free trade arrangement with the UK.”
Asked whether the Huawei decision could prove a “deal-breaker”, he said: “We’ll see.”
Separately, William Barr, the US attorney-general, suggested that Washington should be “actively considering” buying stakes in Huawei’s European rivals, Nokia and Ericsson.
Closer to home, a group of senior Tories, including four ex-cabinet ministers, told colleagues in a letter that there were alternatives to the Chinese firm, and that “high-risk” vendors should be ruled out of the process now, or phased out over time.
The letter from Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Owen Paterson, David Davis, Damian Green, Tobias Ellwood and Bob Seely says some MPs are “working to find a better solution”.
“We are seeking to identify a means by which we ensure that only trusted vendors are allowed as primary contractors into our critical national infrastructure,” it says. “Trusted vendors would be companies from countries that have fair market competition, rule of law, respect human rights, data privacy and non-coercive government agencies.”
The MPs say they want the government to “rule out hi-tech from untrusted, high-risk vendors” in the UK’s infrastructure, or to ensure future legislation includes “sunset clauses” to limit the length of time such companies can be used.
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, said the decision to approve the Huawei deal followed a “rigorous” review by security experts and that the company’s involvement would be restricted. Measures included banning the firm from supplying gear to “sensitive parts” of the network; allowing it to supply only 35% of the kit in a network’s periphery; and excluding its equipment from areas near military bases and nuclear sites.
However, the MPs cited examples of other countries that have rejected a role for Huawei in their 5G networks, including America, Australia and Japan.
Mr Raab was also confronted by senior Australian MPs this week. Canberra was the first administration in the Five Eyes alliance intelligence-sharing group to outlaw Huawei and fellow Chinese telecoms company ZTE from its 5G network in 2018.
America followed suit, in effect banning Huawei. Washington had previously imposed lighter restrictions, including a ban on the sale of Huawei and ZTE phones on US military bases.
Anthony Byrne, an Australian Labor MP, is said to have rebuked Mr Raab during a meeting in Canberra, apparently telling the foreign secretary: “How would you feel if the Russians laid down infrastructure in your own networks? That’s how we feel about Huawei.” Mr Raab said the Huawei decision had been “difficult”, but “technical . . . not political”, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Cross-party colleagues expressed their support for Byrne’s intervention. Andrew Hastie, a Liberal MP who chairs Canberra’s joint intelligence and security committee, said: “Aussies call it how they see it. We save our toughest talk for our closest mates. I back my deputy chair.”