The embattled PM stressed he would not sacrifice security but that critics had to present an alternative to the Chinese powerhouse Huawei
In an interview with the BBC, PM Boris Johnson has finally broken his silence over Huawei, asking critics of the company to offer an alternative.
This comes after a US delegation arrived to meet with the UK government yesterday, bringing new evidence that Huawei could represent a security risk. One delegation member told journalists that a UK deal with Huawei would be “nothing short of madness”.
It seems, however, that the concerns raised by the US delegation had been anticipated, based on a statement by a UK government source: “We’d already anticipated the kind of threat that the US material demonstrates and factored that into our planning.”
“The British public deserve to have access to the best possible technology. We want to put in gigabit broadband for everybody. Now if people oppose one brand or another then they have to tell us what’s the alternative,” explained the PM.
Blocking a major supplier such as Huawei could have serious negative connotations for the UK’s 5G rollout, not least in the shadow of Johnson’s promise to deliver full fibre broadband to the entirety of the UK by 2025.
Nonetheless, security remains a very real concern. The US maintains that vulnerabilities are deliberately being left in Huawei software to be exploited on behalf of the Chinese government.
“I don’t want, as the UK prime minister, to put in any infrastructure that is going to prejudice our national security or our ability to cooperate with Five Eyes intelligence partners,” commented Johnson.
The question of intelligence sharing between these countries has been somewhat downplayed after the Head of MI5, Andrew Parker, yesterday said that a UK decision to use Huawei would not jeopardise intelligence sharing with the US.
Of the Five Eyes – the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK – Australia has joined the US in banning Huawei entirely, New Zealand has a partial ban, and Canada remains on the fence, much like the UK.
Huawei continues to strongly deny the allegations that they are a national security risk, noting that they have already been cleared of any technical violations by two UK parliamentary committees.
“We are confident that the UK Government will make a decision based upon evidence, as opposed to unsubstantiated allegations,” said Huawei VP, Victor Zhang.
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