Britain’s new prime minister must urgently decide whether to include China’s Huawei in Britain’s 5G telecoms network because the debate is damaging international relations, UK legislators said on Friday.
Britain’s National Security Council, chaired by departing Prime Minister Theresa May, met to discuss Huawei in April and decided to block the telecoms giant from all critical parts of the 5G network but give it restricted access to less sensitive parts.
However, the US has told allies not to use Huawei’s technology as it fears it could be used by Beijing for spying operations.
Meanwhile, China has warned Britain that excluding the company could hurt investment and trade.
The final decision on Huawei was already supposed to have been made by the government but Mrs May’s decision to step down has stalled the process.
Her replacement, either front-runner Boris Johnson or Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, will be installed next week.
“The new prime minister must take a decision as a matter of priority,” said Dominic Grieve, chairman of Parliament’s intelligence and security committee.
The committee said Britain’s cyber-security chiefs had been clear that the issue was not about one country or company.
It said the system had to be able to withstand any attack, malicious act or human error.
It said this was best achieved by diversifying suppliers and there were only three companies in the running – Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson.
Over-dependence and less competition resulted in lower security standards, the committee said.
“Therefore including a third company, even if you may have some security concerns about them and will have to set a higher bar for security measures within the system, will result in higher overall security,” it said.
But the committee acknowledged that the decision was not just technical and that the government had to take into account political concerns, and should not do anything to jeopardise the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance of the US, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
It said that China would understand if Huawei were excluded because Beijing would not allow a British company to play a role in its critical national infrastructure.
“Such an important decision therefore requires careful consideration,” the committee said.
“However, the extent of the delay is now causing damage to our international relationships. A decision must be made as a matter of urgency.”