Prime Minister Boris Johnson has beefed up his rhetoric on Chinese tech firm Huawei, warning China that he will protect British infrastructure from “hostile state vendors”.
Johnson has faced mounting criticism over his deal with the Chinese firm allowing Huawei to produce 35 per cent of the UK’s 5G infrastructure.
Senior figures from both sides of the Atlantic have warned that technology used by the firm could be used by Beijing for state spying. Huawei has repeatedly denied the claims.
Earlier this month, the PM faced a revolt from 59 Tory backbenchers urging him to provide a legally-binding date to strip Huawei technology from Britain’s 5G network.
Speaking to the public at a major speech in the Midlands today, Johnson said: “On Huawei, the position is very, very simple. I do want to see our critical national infrastructure properly protected from hostile state vendors, so we need to strike that balance and that’s what we’ll do.”
But UK telecoms firms have cautioned that stripping Huawei technology from their core networks would be too costly.
BT, which owns mobile network EE, is heavily reliant on Huawei in its UK mobile and full-fibre networks. It warned that it will cost £500m to remove equipment made by the Chinese vendor from its network.
The standoff has been further complicated by concern from Number 10 over a controversial new security law in Hong Kong.
Chinese President Xi Jinping today signed into effect a new law that will hand Beijing sweeping powers over the autonomous city. The new legislation will criminalise subversion and collusion with foreign forces, and will effectively ban protests, in a major devastation to political freedoms in Hong Kong.
Asked if the security law would influence Britain’s decision on whether or not to restrict Huawei’s role in the UK, Johnson said: “I’m not going to get drawn into Sinophobia because I’m not a Sinophobe.”
However, he added that the government “will be looking at the law very carefully”.
“We want to scrutinise it properly, to understand whether it’s in conflict with the joint declaration between the UK and China,” the PM said.