‘WHETHER the UK can provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies is a litmus test for British markets after Brexit, and it is also an indicator for China’s investment in the UK, we will be closely following that,’ Zhao Lijian, director of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information Department, said yesterday.
He was responding to the news that the UK will pull out of using Huawei for its 5G networks.
In Parliament, Oliver Dowden, Tory Digital, Culture Media and Sport Secretary, declared: ‘By the time of the next election we will have implemented in law an irreversible path for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G networks.’
Dowden said that at a meeting of the National Security Council yesterday morning, chaired by Tory PM Johnson, it was agreed that ‘the best way to secure our networks is for the operators to stop using new equipment from Huawei to build the UK’s 5G network.’
‘To be clear,’ Dowden reiterated, ‘Telecoms must not buy any 5G equipment from Huawei. And once the Telecoms Security Bill is passed it will be illegal for them to do so.’
He continued: ‘But we also recognise the range of concerns voiced in this House, regarding Huawei’s role in our 5G network. I have listened carefully to those concerns and I do agree that we need clarity on that issue … I know that honourable members have sought a commitment from this government to remove Huawei equipment from our 5G network altogether. This is why we have concluded that it is necessary to commit to a timetable for the removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G network by 2027.’
‘On the 15th of May the US Department of Commerce announced that new sanctions had been imposed against Huawei,’ Dowden said, admitting that the US had exerted considerable pressure on the UK.
He then conceded there would be dire consequences for the UK economy because of this anti-China decision.
‘I must be frank about the decision’s consequences for every constituency in this country.
‘This will delay our rollout of 5G. Our decision in January had already set back that rollout by a year and cost up to a billion pounds. Today’s decision to ban the procurement of new Huawei 5G equipment for the end of this year will delay rollout for a further year and will add up to half a billion pounds to costs.
‘Requiring operators, in addition, to remove Huawei equipment from their 5G networks by 2027 will add hundreds of millions of pounds of further costs and further delay rollout.
‘This means an accumulative delay of 5G rollout of two to three years and costs of up to two billion pounds. This will have real consequences for the connection on which all our constituents rely, and I have to say to go faster and further beyond the 2027 target will add considerable and, indeed unnecessary, further costs and delays.
‘And of course, the shorter we make the timetable for removal, the greater the risk of actual disruption to mobile telephone networks.’
The Labour Party did not oppose the decision to pull out of Huawei and adopted the attitude of ‘I told you so’.
Labour’s shadow Digital, Culture Media and Sport Secretary, Chi Onwurah, said: ‘Now all sides of the House agree that the first duty of any government is to defend its citizens and we have confidence in our national security services who go to such lengths to keep us safe.
‘There are serious questions over whether Huawei should be allowed control of our country’s telecoms network, yet the government refused to face reality. Our approach to our 5G capability, Huawei and our national security has been incomprehensibly negligent.’
Meanwhile in a further provocation against China, the UK is sending its new aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth to join the US and Japan in military drills in the South China Sea.