Thirty-six rebels voted to phase out Huawei entirely from the UK’s 5G networks, but this was not enough to topple the government majority

Last night’s vote will have seen Huawei breath a sigh of relief, as the Boris Johnson’s government defeated a Conservative faction seeking to ban the Chinese vendor outright from UK 5G networks. 
Led by former Tory leader Ian Duncan Smith, the group sought to amend the government’s decision back in January that Huawei be restricted from the core of 5G networks and limited to a 35% market share; instead, Smith’s rebels wanted to see Huawei phased out entirely by the end of 2022.
“This country has got itself far too bound into a process in which we are reliant on untrusted vendors and in this particular case, Huawei,” said Smith, arguing that Huawei is an agent of the Chinese government.
Equally central to his argument was the damage that the UK’s decision was doing to international relations, especially with the US. “We have no friends out there anymore on this issue. Whether it’s the Canadians, the Americans, the Australians, the New Zealanders, they all disagree with us,” he said.
The Trump administration must surely have been licking its lips as the rebellion gathered steam over the previous weekend, with some rumours suggesting the vote could gather as much as 60 rebel votes – more than enough to overcome the government’s majority.
However, yesterday saw rearguard action from both the government and Huawei. The PM reportedly organised a GCHQ briefing for the rebellious MPs to allay their fears ahead of the vote, and ex-BT chairman Sir Mike Rake, now an advisor to Huawei, released an open letter imploring the MPs not to “set back the important technological and communication progress we have made”.
“Any attempt to further restrict Huawei 5G equipment, or to remove existing 4G equipment will not only incur very significant costs, but prejudice trade relationships with China and will significantly set back the Government’s broadband ambitions. This in turn will further damage our competitiveness as an economy, at what is a critical moment,” read the statement.
Whether these actions ultimately influenced some of the rebel party, or if their numbers were simply exaggerated from the outset, the final vote saw a government victory by 24 votes. Huawei’s limited role in the UK’s 5G infrastructure remains secure, at least for now. That said, the government did hint at future concessions, saying they had “heard loud and clear the points made on all sides of the house”.
Huawei’s response to this result was much the same as it has been to all the claims that it will present a UK cybersecurity risk, with VP Victor Zhang saying: “An evidence-based approach is needed, so we were disappointed to hear some groundless accusations asserted. The industry and experts agree that banning Huawei equipment would leave Britain less secure, less productive, and less innovative.”
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