BORIS Johnson has banned Huawei from Britain’s 5G network from next year – but it will take until 2027 for all of it to be scrapped.
The Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden today announced that new Huawei equipment will be banned from next year after a growing backlash against the company.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Dowden explained the decision came after US sanctions against the network.
He said: “The National Cyber Security Centre has reviewed the consequences of the US actions, the NCSC has now reported to ministers that they have significantly changed their security assessment of Huawei’s precence in the UK’s 5G network.
“The Government agrees with the NSCS’s advice, the best way to secure our networks if to stop using new affected Huawei equipment to build the UK’s 5G networks.
“From the end of this year telecoms operators must not buy any equipment from Huawei, and after the telecoms bill it will be illegal to do so.”
The move is a major U-turn for the Government, who had vowed to continue with Huawei despite concerns from Tory MPs.
- The ban will come in for new parts of the 5G network from Jan 1 2021
- Huawei will still be allowed to keep their 2G, 3G and 4G equipment in the country as it’s not deemed a security risk
- Huawei’s 5G network can’t be ditched straight away as there’s only one other supplier who can be used right now – Nokia
- Fibre internet providers will have two years to phase out Huawei products in their current internet technology
- Higher prices for consumers likely as internet providers will have to strip the firm’s parts out
- Today Lord Browne of Madingley stepped down early as the UK chairman of Huawei Technologies ahead of the ban
US sanctions mean Huawei cannot use American components, which will mean the firm would have to use untrusted technology.
Donald Trump’s right hand man had previously warned that allowing the Chinese tech giant to build parts of Britain’s 5G network would be like “putting a kleptomaniac” into your house.
US Ambassador Woody Johnson used the analogy to raise the stakes in the ongoing transatlantic row over the role of Huawei.
Last year America even threatened to stop sharing top-secret intelligence with Britain if it allows Huawei to build its 5G mobile phone network.
Mr Dowden also admitted the move would delay 5G rollout by up to three years, costing up to £2 billion.
Despite the move, sources stressed it’s still safe to use and buy Huawei phones and laptops.
Mr Dowden also insisted the move did not mean turning their back on China.
He explained: “What we want is a modern and mature relationship with China based on mutual respect where we’re able to speak frankly when we disagree but also to work side by side with China on the issues where our interests converge.
“The security and resilience of our telecoms networks is of paramount importance. We have never and will never compromise that security in pursuit of economic prosperity.”
MPs warned the action could lead to retaliation from China.
Sources said security services were ready for any cyber attacks in response to today’s decision, but stressed the UK was always ready for state sponsored cyber attacks of any kind.
Mr Dowden added: “This government will not be cowed by the comments of any other country and indeed this decision has been made in the national security interests of this nation.”
The Culture Secretary also revealed the new Telecoms Security bill would be coming in the Autumn, but refused to say exactly when.
It comes after a growing revolt from Mr Johnson’s own MPs over the Chinese company’s technology.
Speaking in the chamber, Tory MP Anthony Mangnall called for the 2027 date to be brought forward, and accused Huawei of using slave labour.
He said: “If the Government is going to be clear-eyed about China, it must also be clear-eyed about the human rights violations that are reportedly being undertaken by Huawei and their use of slave labour.
“It is not acceptable for a global Britain to be involved in a company that is perpetually using slave labour in their supply chain.”
Iain Duncan Smith became the most senior Tory to complain that the seven-year removal is too long.
He said: “Let’s bring it forward to five, and make sure it happens quickly.”
In a letter to Mr Johnson, ten Tory MPs had bashed the “unreasonable delay”.
They said: “We do not believe it is possible for the UK to have both secure networks and a role for Huawei within them.
“It remains the case that, under China’s national intelligence law, Huawei is obliged to co-operate with Chinese intelligence and to deny that it does so. The nature of Chinese law is such that Huawei is — to all intents and purposes — a state-owned enterprise.
“In the last month alone, the world has been confronted with shocking new evidence of systematic human rights abuses by the Chinese Communist Party. These include a birth suppression programme directed against Uighur Muslims by the authorities.
“Knowing how lightly China takes the assurances it has given, many colleagues are even more uncomfortable about a role for Huawei in our networks.”
The MPs include former party leader IDS, ex-cabinet minister David Davis and Bob Seely.
Mr Seely had also warned that the government would face further fury if the deadline was pushed back until the end of the decade.
A Whitehall official explained today that it was not as simple as just taking off a piece of equipment.
They said: “It is not just ripping out an aerial, you are dismantling a highly intelligent piece of equipment.
The Government announced in January that Huwaei would be limited to the core of the 5G network and just 35 per cent market share of the other parts.
This morning Lord Browne of Madingley stepped down early as the UK chairman of Huawei Technologies ahead of the ban.
Yesterday BT chief Philip Jansen warned of possible “outages” if they are ordered to remove all Huawei products which help run 3G and 4G networks over security risks.
He said: “I think that’s impossible to do in under ten years.”
Huawei has always denied that it poses any security risk and insists that it is a private company free from Chinese state control.
Ed Brewster, a spokesperson for Huawei UK, said: “This disappointing decision is bad news for anyone in the UK with a mobile phone.
“It threatens to move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide. Instead of ‘levelling up’ the government is levelling down and we urge them to reconsider. We remain confident that the new US restrictions would not have affected the resilience or security of the products we supply to the UK.
“Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicized, this is about US trade policy and not security.”