Huawei row: UK to let Chinese firm help build 5G network

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The government has given Chinese telecoms giant Huawei the go-ahead to supply equipment for the UK 5G data network despite senior ministers warning it poses a security risk.

The Daily Telegraph reports the company will help build some “non-core” parts.

The plan was said to have concerned the home, defence and foreign secretaries.

The US also wants its allies in the “Five Eyes” intelligence grouping – the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – to exclude Huawei.

Cyber-threats are among the issues set to be discussed later by the once-secret alliance, at a security conference in Glasgow.

Australia has already said it is siding with Washington – which has spoken of “serious concerns over Huawei’s obligations to the Chinese government and the danger that poses to the integrity of telecommunications networks in the US and elsewhere”.

Huawei has always denied being controlled by the Chinese government, or that its work poses any risks of espionage and sabotage.

It said it was awaiting a formal government announcement on the UK’s 5G plans, but was “pleased that the UK is continuing to take an evidence-based approach to its work, and we will continue to work cooperatively with the government, and the industry”.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Huawei’s involvement in the 5G network would include helping to build parts of antennas or other non-critical infrastructure.

A spokesman for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said its review of the issue would report in due course.

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Responding to the reports, Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat tweeted that allowing Huawei to build some of the UK’s 5G infrastructure would “cause allies to doubt our ability to keep data secure and erode the trust essential to #FiveEyes cooperation”.

“There’s a reason others have said no,” he added.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Tugendhat maintained it was difficult to distinguish between the core and non-core in a 5G network.

He said the proposals still raised concerns, adding that 5G involved an “internet system that can genuinely connect everything, and therefore the distinction between non-core and core is much harder to make”.

Later, the director of the UK’s monitoring agency, GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, will open the CyberUK conference in Glasgow by warning that a technological revolution “brings new and unprecedented challenges for policymakers, as they seek to protect citizens, judicial systems, businesses – and even societal norms”.

He will say that the government wants to do more to take the burden of cyber-security away from the individual and to work with manufacturers and online companies to ensure they build security into their products and services at the design stage.

Mr Fleming will also make the case that improving the cyber-security of the UK is only achievable if “we build a genuinely national effort – with more connections and deeper cooperation with the private sector and even closer working with our partners and allies”.

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