U.S. government officials presented the British government with a new dossier of intelligence on Monday about the risks of including Huawei equipment in future 5G mobile networks, branding it “madness”.
Officials from both countries and the telecoms industry met on Monday ahead of Britain’s decision on whether to deploy technology from the Chinese company.
There are growing expectations that Boris Johnson will decide in favour of allowing the use of Huawei equipment in some “non-core” parts of the network, with a final decision due later in January.
Huawei has consistently denied that it has ever been asked by the Chinese government to introduce secret “back doors” into its technology, and has even offered to sign a “no spy agreement” with countries adopting it. But the US insists there is a surveillance risk.
However, a US delegation that flew to London on Monday to lobby the government said allowing Huawei into Britain’s 5G networks would present a serious national security threat.
One US representative who attended the meeting said “it would be like putting Russia in charge of anti-doping of world athletes”.
The delegation of six officials included Matt Pottinger, deputy national security adviser; Christopher Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and non-proliferation; and Robert Blair, special representative for international telecommunications policy.
“Senior U.S. officials told a group of reporters that using Huawei technology for 5G in the UK would be ‘an act of madness’ shortly after presenting a dossier of new evidence to ministers,”
“The security and resilience of the U.K.’s telecoms network is of paramount importance,”
“We have strict controls for how Huawei equipment is currently deployed in the U.K. The government is undertaking a comprehensive review to ensure the security and resilience of 5G and fiber in the U.K.”James Slack, Prime Minister’s Official Spokesperson
A Huawei spokesperson said it was a private company that has supplied the UK for the past 15 years and that parliamentary committees had concluded there is no technical reason to ban it from supplying 5G equipment.
The spokesman added:
“And now, Andrew Parker, the head of MI5, says he has ‘no reason to think’ that the UK’s intelligence-sharing relationship with the US would be hit if Britain continued to use Huawei technology. We’re confident the government will take a decision based on evidence – not unsubstantiated allegations.”