US warns Britain against China's Huawei 5G network

27 January 2020, 08:32

Mike Pompeo made the comments on the Chinese tech giant
Mike Pompeo made the comments on the Chinese tech giant. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned Britain's sovereignty is at risk if the country allows Chinese tech giant Huawei to take part in the 5G process.

Reportedly, Donald Trump warned Boris Johnson of "serious consequences" if the company was allowed a role in building the UK's 5G network.

Mr Pompeo tweeted: “The truth is that only nations able to protect their data will be sovereign,” and described the decision the UK National Security Council face as "momentous."

The PM's top security team are expected to make a decision on Tuesday.

Chris Skidmore, the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, told LBC News it was a "highly sensitive decision," and the Prime Minister would be relying on the advice of "world-leading experts in the national security field."

Mr Skidmore said the UK needs to reflect on the "special relationship with the US and our emerging relationship with China."

Meanwhile, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Saturday described the Huawei deal a threat to “critical” infrastructure. But he indicated that if Downing Street falls into line, then America. will “dedicate a lot of resources” to getting a trade deal negotiated and signed by the end of the year.

The US administration has previously warned allies not to allow Huawei to form part of their 5G networks, claiming it would be a security risk, something the company vehemently denies.

Former national security adviser Peter Ricketts, a crossbench peer, said the risk is being blown out of proportion.

"I'm quite sure, knowing the intelligence community well, that they won't be recommending to ministers, the course of action that is likely to mess up our intelligence relationship with the US or prejudice UK security.

"I personally think we can find a solution which does allow them to have some role and which doesn't send the Americans off the other side of the diving board."

Mr Pompeo is due to meet Boris Johnson and the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on a visit to London this week.

Home Secretary Priti Patel dismissed reports on Sunday that she is "on the warpath" following claims Mr Johnson has been "bounced" by officials into letting Huawei build non-core parts of the 5G network.

She told Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday the report in the Sunday Times was "not accurate", adding: "My role is very much to protect the national security of our country and that also includes intelligence services and communications as well.

"We are having discussions, and rightly so, and those discussions remain at the National Security Council level and within-Cabinet level.

"And of course we will have those discussions. We'll have them privately and I'm not going to comment on speculation in newspapers."

She said the UK's co-operation with the Five Eyes network - an alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States - would "absolutely continue".

On Friday the Prime Minister discussed the security of telecommunications networks in a phone call with Donald Trump, according to the White House.

"The two leaders discussed important regional and bilateral issues, including working together to ensure the security of our telecommunications networks," a White House statement said.

Last year, the US imposed trade restrictions on Huawei over concerns about the company's security and ties to the Chinese government.

Allegations that their telecommunications equipment could be used to spy on people has been repeatedly denied by the tech giant.