UK

UK Huawei Leak Sparks Controversy

By Jane Werrell

LONDON—U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to warn UK leaders about Huawei during his visit to London on May 8. It comes amid a leak about Britain’s plan to allow Huawei a role in building its new 5G network.

The leak from the National Security Council concerning Huawei is a serious one. The UK’s defense minister Gavin Williamson, who denies leaking any information, was fired over it.

But for some, it’s not who the leaker is that’s most concerning—it’s Huawei.

It’s well documented that the controversial telecoms company has close ties with the Chinese regime.

Britain’s Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson was fired over the leak about Huawei. (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Conservative lawmaker Tom Tugenhat, who is Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, asked the British Prime Minister last week why she was “ignoring two of the UK’s closest intelligence allies.”

“The decision that has been discussed in many parts of the world at the moment is the possibility that we will be nesting a dragon in the critical national infrastructure of the UK by allowing Huawei to build the cyber network that will power 5G.

“This decision is frankly extraordinary given the advice of the National Security Council in the United States and the Australian Signals directorate,” he said.

In response, Prime Minister Theresa May said a decision on the 5G supply chain network would be announced in due course.

5G, which will supersede 4G mobile networks, promises faster internet connection and is to control the so-called Internet of Things. The United States, Australia, and New Zealand have banned Huawei from their 5G networks.

china us huawei
A Huawei sign outside a store selling mobile phones in Beijing on Aug. 6, 2018. (Greg Baker/AFP/ Getty Images)

There are fears that the Chinese state could use the technology to spy on Western governments.

Security expert Anthony Glees says that the best solution for the UK now is to find a completely different provider for its 5G networks.

He pointed to the “obvious providers” like Sony Mobile and Nokia.

“It’s the duty of every state to deliver security to its citizens, [and] if it can deliver economic security as well, that’s excellent. But physical security and security in cyberspace is probably more important in the medium and longer term than economic security, because economics can change.”

He said going with Huawei as provider could undermine the UK’s security.

“We have to take a hit to our economy in order to keep our security. People like me will say that’s more important, it’s what the people of Britain have voted for, there is no gain without pain.”

“The pain is that it might take us longer, increase our vulnerability at a time of great change in the United Kingdom—if Brexit happens,” he said.

The United States has indicated that the UK’s plans to involve Huawei in its 5G networks could threaten intelligence cooperation with America.

The final decision about Huawei in the UK is to be announced later in the Spring.