Huawei 5G decision postponed by UK Government

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The decision on whether to allow Huawei to play a role in constructing the UK’s 5G network has been delayed until after the general election. Outgoing culture secretary, Nicky Morgan, confirmed the decision would now be made after the general election on 12 December.

It had been reported that the UK government was on the brink of giving Huawei access to non-contentious parts of the 5G network, a decision that would have infuriated the White House.

In a letter sent to the Foreign Affairs Committee today, digital, culture, media and sport secretary Nicky Morgan said that “the general election timetable and pre-election period mean that this will not now be possible”.

“The decision will, therefore, be for the next government,” she added. “I would expect that a future government would wish to inform parliament of its decision, once made, at the appropriate time.

“In the meantime, the government expects telecoms operators to continue to ensure that they take appropriate measures to manage security and resilience risks to their networks, and continue to engage with and seek advice from the National Cyber Security Centre and DCMS officials in relation to cybersecurity and risk-mitigation strategies. At the start of the review, we made clear to industry that the outcome of the review may lead to changes to current rules that could have implications for supply arrangements, and that operators should take account of this in their deployment plans.”

The decision on Huawei’s participation in UK 5G had already been delayed from July after the government said it could not adopt a firm position because of uncertainty created by US trade restrictions placed on the company over security fears.

Responding to a letter on the issue from the chair of the foreign affairs committee, Tom Tugendhat, Morgan said:

“While it was this government’s intention to conclude this aspect of the review in the autumn, the general election timetable and pre-election period mean that this will not now be possible.

“The decision will, therefore, be for the next government. I would expect that a future government would wish to inform parliament of its decision, once made, at the appropriate time.”

The decision on Huawei’s participation in UK 5G had already been delayed from July after the government said it could not adopt a firm position because of uncertainty created by US trade restrictions placed on the company over security fears.

Tugendhat added:

“The foreign affairs committee has been investigating the way the autocratic states intervene in democracies. Many members have been concerned about the Chinese technological dominance, nowhere more than in the 5G market. I wrote to the [culture] secretary to ensure that no decision would be made in the tail end of the government.

“I’m pleased to hear that a decision that could nest a hostile state’s technology deep in the central nervous system of the UK communications network will be taken by a new administration after a full debate.

“This decision has major foreign policy implications as it calls into question our most important security partnership – the Five-Eyes Alliance, the intelligence-sharing deal between the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada – and our economic relationship with other nations.”

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