Boris Johnson has defied Donald Trump’s US administration and granted permission to Chinese telecoms company Huawei a role in developing Britain’s 5G network.
The UK government said in a written statement on Tuesday that it had decided to give Huawei a major role in building the country’s 5G network, despite warnings about potential threats to security.
However, in a statement, the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport said that Huawei would be excluded from the network’s “core” functions, with the company restricted to operating just 35% of the overall network.
The company will also be excluded from operating “sensitive” parts of the UK’s communications network, including “nuclear sites and military bases.”
“We want world-class connectivity as soon as possible but this must not be at the expense of our national security,” Digital Secretary Baroness Morgan said.
“High-risk vendors never have been and never will be in our most sensitive networks.”
In a statement, Huawei welcomed Downing Street’s “evidence-based” decision to allow the firm to continue its rollout of the 5G network.
“Huawei is reassured by the UK government’s confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G roll-out on track,” Victor Zhang, Huawei’s vice-president, said.
“This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future.”
The US strongly opposed the UK allowing Huawei to develop its infrastructure because it believes doing so will give Chinese state intelligence services a backdoor into Britain, and put UK-US intelligence sharing at risk.
Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, who is due to visit London this week, on Sunday warned Prime Minister Johnson that he faced a “momentous” decision on whether to freeze the telecoms giant out of new UK infrastructure.
Pompeo endorsed a tweet from Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, who warned that allowing Huawei into such a critical part of infrastructure could have a “real cost” and undermine the UK’s sovereignty.
Tugendhat is one of several MPs in Johnson’s own Conservative party who have expressed concern about Huawei.
However, the prime minister has opted to go ahead with plans to let the Chinese company develop Britain’s 5G network, as part of his agenda of “levelling up” regions across the country through improved infrastructure.