Boris Johnson Hints He’ll Give Huawei Access to U.K. 5G Networks

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27 jan. 2020, 16.27

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Boris Johnson indicated he is poised to grant Huawei Technologies Co. a role in developing the U.K.’s fifth generation telecommunications networks, saying British consumers should have access to “fantastic technology.”

The prime minister is expected to make a decision this week on whether to allow the Chinese company to supply equipment for the ultra-fast broadband networks, following a meeting of the National Security Council. That comes in the face of strong pressure for a ban from the U.S., which has said it may jeopardize intelligence-sharing.

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan, whose department is responsible for telecoms, told Bloomberg earlier this month that Huawei will be kept out of “critical national infrastructure,” while leaving open the prospect the company can be involved in less sensitive infrastructure. That message was backed up on Monday by Johnson, who said in a pooled media interview that the way forward is to ensure consumer benefits without putting security at risk.

“We are going to come up with a solution that enables us to achieve both those objectives and that’s the way forward,” Johnson said. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have technological progress here in the U.K. -- allow consumers, businesses in the U.K. access to fantastic technology, fantastic communications -- but also protect our security interests and protect our key partnerships with other security powers around the world.”

The Huawei decision is perilous for Johnson. If he sides with President Trump and bans the company, he risks failing to equip the U.K. with the technology Huawei is well placed to provide and betraying his pledge to voters to spread ultra-fast internet services across the country. If he allows Huawei to go ahead, he faces the potential loss of U.S. intelligence cooperation and an angry backlash from the White House at a time when he’s seeking a trade deal with Britain’s closest ally.

The decision could be announced as soon as Tuesday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Robert Hutton

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