Boris Johnson has been warned not to “let the fox into the hen house” by allowing Huawei to build the UK’s 5G network.
Tom Tugendhat, who is running for reelection as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, today said the embattled telecoms giant was “integrally” part of the Chinese state and could not be trusted.
US officials have ramped up the pressure on their British counterparts to ban the Chinese company, warning that using Huawei kit for critical national infrastructure would be “nothing short of madness”.
Critics of Huawei have warned that its kit could be used for spying by authorities in Beijing — an accusation the firm has always denied.
The government has delayed its decision on the issue by almost a year, but is expected to announce its final verdict in the coming weeks.
Speaking to Sky News this morning, Tugendhat said: “The problem that we’ve got is that [Huawei] is becoming so market dominant that it’s not just a question of spying today, we can broadly speaking do a lot to mitigate that.
“But it’s a question of finding ourselves in a few years’ time where it’s got such a hold of the market that actually companies like Nokia [and] Ericsson just fall away and are simply unable to compete.”
Tugendhat said he was “perfectly prepared to believe” that UK spooks could mitigate any security concerns, but warned that each future software update would present a new risk.
“For me this is a little bit like a guarding exercise,” he said. “Of course you can individually guard every chicken, but isn’t it better not to let the fox into the hen house in the first place?”
In addition to national security concerns, the US has also warned its allies that any cooperation with Huawei could put intelligence sharing agreements at risk.
However, earlier this week MI5 chief Andrew Parker said he had “no reason to think” that Britain’s relationship with the US would suffer if Huawei is given a role in 5G.
Huawei yesterday urged the UK to ignore the US’s “unsubstantiated allegations” of espionage.