The banning of Huawei from the UK’s 5G network infrastructure is about trade not security, according to its UK communications director.
The government decision followed a technical review by the National Cyber Security Centre in response to US sanctions against the Chinese telecoms giant.
Huawei will be completely removed from 5G networks by the end of 2027. Ahead of this there will be a total ban on the purchase of any new 5G kit after 31st December 2020.
Ed Brewster told BBC’s Newsnight programme that the ban was the result of “pressure from the US”.
He said: “I think this is clear this is not about security this is about trade. This is a US campaign focused on attacking our business and attacking the technology and that is because the US is behind on the technology.
“Today’s decision is as much driven by trade and US trade policy; US concerns around falling behind in technology.
“We are in a long-term trade dispute escalation from the US around how it wants to retain technology leadership.”
The government said technical experts at the NCSC reviewed the consequences of US sanctions against Huawei and concluded the company will need to do a major reconfiguration of its supply chain as it will no longer have access to the technology on which it currently relies – and there are no alternatives which we have sufficient confidence in.
They said the new restrictions make it impossible to continue to guarantee the security of Huawei equipment in the future.
US President Donald Trump, who has called for a wider international ban on Huawei over alleged links to the ruling Chinese communist regime, welcomed the UK’s decision and seemed to claim credit for it.
“We convinced many countries, many countries – and I did this myself for the most part – not to use Huawei because we think it’s an unsafe security risk, it’s a big security risk,” he said.
In January Prime Minister Boris Johnson had placed a 35 per cent cap on Huawei’s UK market share.
Brewster said the perception that Huawei has links to the Chinese state is “incorrect”, adding: “We’re a private technology company. The trust we’ve built up around the world is with our customers [and] the telecoms networks.
“We don’t work for governments – we work for the telecoms networks.”
In announcing the decision of the UK’s National Security Council, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “5G will be transformative for our country, but only if we have confidence in the security and resilience of the infrastructure it is built upon.
“UK 5G networks will be Huawei–free by the end of 2027. This decisive move provides the industry with the clarity and certainty it needs to get on with delivering 5G across the UK.
“By the time of the next election we will have implemented in law an irreversible path for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G networks.”
Ahead of the announcement, Lord John Browne resigned as UK chairman of Huawei. He will step down from the board in September.
The government will now seek to legislate at the earliest opportunity with a new Telecoms Security Bill which gives it powers to impose controls on high–risk vendors.
Meanwhile China’s ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming tweeted: “Disappointing and wrong decision by the UK on Huawei.
“It has become questionable whether the UK can provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for companies from other countries.”