US ambassador Woody Johnson took an apparent swipe at Chinese tech firm Huawei today, saying that inviting the company into key sectors of the UK’s economy would be “like letting a kleptomaniac into your house”.
“If we let untrustworthy countries in the heart of our economies, and infrastructure, what could they do? We have to decide that,” he said today at the Centre for Policy Studies conference in London’s Guildhall.
“I’ve always said it’s like letting a kleptomaniac into you house, and then you’ve got to hire three people to follow them around all day.”
There has been a fierce political debate about the extent to which Huawei should be allowed to develop the UK’s 5G infrastructure.
A leak from a National Security Council meeting earlier this year revealed the government was considering a partial ban on the company, excluding it from core parts of the network but allowing it to build non-core areas.
Johnson was stressing that a strong UK was in the interests of the US in light of the growing number of security threats in the world today.
“Russia…Iran is causing havoc, China,” he said.
Johnson said a strong economic relationship was the key to a security relationship and said a new trade deal between the two countries would help grow transatlantic commerce.
“The US can’t wait…to get a new deal with the UK,” he said.
The ambassador said EU interference and anti-competitive practices were hampering trade between the US and UK.
He cited the controversial issue of chlorinated chicken, which he said was “perfectly safe”.
“The EU has a very good PR campaign against chicken,” he said.
He said that post-Brexit the UK would be able to make its own decisions on trade.
“For the first time in 40 years Britain will be in the driving seat, not Brussels. The UK will be able to do deals that make sense for this country.”