Former Tory cabinet minister David Davis has lambasted the government’s 5G deal with Chinese tech firm Huawei, branding it the “worst intelligence decision since MI6’s recruitment of Kim Philby”.
Davis, who served as Brexit secretary under Theresa May, warned the verdict posed a huge risk to national security and likened it to the appointment of notorious Soviet double agents.
“In fact, given our future dependence on so-called fifth generation or 5G technology, this failure is worse than Philby and his fellow spies Burgess, Maclean, Cairncross and Blunt all rolled into one,” he wrote in the Mail on Sunday.
The bruising attack comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Huawei would be allowed to build non-sensitive parts of the UK’s 5G networks, though the firm will be subject to a market share cap of 35 per cent.
The decision came despite warnings from the US that the Chinese telecoms firm had links to Beijing and could compromise national security — an accusation Huawei has always denied.
Davis warned that 5G’s role in major infrastructure meant that any hostile party with access to the network could bring the country to its knees.
“The damage could range from traffic jams to mass fatalities — and that is quite aside from the capacity for espionage,” he wrote.
UK spooks have acknowledged that Huawei is a so-called high risk vendor, but have insisted that any risks can be managed.
However, the former Brexit secretary pointed to the decisions made by allies such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, who have all taken action against Huawei.
“China has spied aggressively on Western states for decades, stealing military and technological secrets on an industrial scale,” he said.
The UK’s decision to give Huawei the green light has also sparked concerns about the so-called Five Eyes intelligence sharing agreement between western allies.
The US has previously warned that it could restrict the amount of intelligence it shares with any country that chooses to work with Huawei.
In addition, the move has risked derailing crucial transatlantic trade talks, with US President Donald Trump said to be furious at Johnson’s decision.
Following a heated phone call with the Prime Minister earlier this month, Trump described the UK’s decision as a “betrayal”, the Mail on Sunday reported.
A group of senior Conservatives, including Davis and Sir Ian Duncan Smith, have written to Tory MPs urging them to reconsider the government’s decision and calling for a total ban.
Davis today reiterated his stance, urging Johnson to reverse his decision.
“This is a formidably important question,” Davis told the BBC’s Andrew Marr. “[Johnson’s] in his pomp, he’s at the maximum of his power now… he won’t want in 20 years’ time historians to look back and say that was the worst decision a British prime minister made in however many years.”