An ex-MI6 chief today backed barring Huawei from the UK’s 5G network as the government faces Tory demands to phase the Chinese firm’s technology out of telecoms infrastructure altogether.
Sir John Sawers, who previously endorsed Huawei’s involvement, said US sanctions would affect its ability to provide secure equipment.
The intervention came amid growing signs that the government will U-turn to axe the company from 5G after an intelligence report warned the security risks are too great.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed this morning that he had received the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) assessment, and the action by America will have a ‘significant impact’ on Huawei’s reliability.
Although no final decisions have been taken, expectations are rising that ministers will announce proposals this month to strip out the company’s kit from the wider UK telecoms network by 2029.
However, dozens of Conservative MPs want the government to go further and complete the process by the end of this parliament in 2024.
Huawei technology will be dumped from Britain’s 5G network due to fears over security risks
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed this morning that he had received the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) assessment, and the action by America will have a ‘significant impact’ on Huawei’s reliability
Huawei’s links to the Chinese state have been causing increasing ructions among Tories and security experts.
The company furiously denies being controlled by Beijing, but Foreign Affairs Committee chair Tom Tugendhat and former leader Iain Duncan Smith are among the senior figures calling for a tougher approach.
In an article for the Financial Times, former MI6 chief Sir John wrote: ‘There are now sound technical reasons for the UK to change January’s decision, which would have allowed Huawei to have an up to 35 per cent stake in the UK’s 5G market, and exclude the company instead.’
Ministers are set to be asked to approve a ban on the purchase of any new Huawei kit by the end of this year in a dramatic shift.
Mr Dowden, who has oversight of the NCSC, is also preparing to recommend that Huawei technology is stripped out of all Britain’s telecom networks, possibly by the end of 2029.
However, a 60-strong group of Tory MPs want the timetable speeded up to 2024.
A source close to the rebels told the Telegraph it is ‘unconscionable’ for Huawei equipment to remain in use by the next election.
‘The Government can forget about its legislative agenda until it’s sorted out the China question,’ the source said.
The NCSC review was launched after US sanctions outlawed any US patented technology used in the firm’s microchips.
Intelligence officials believe this will render them unsafe because Asian alternatives – considered less trustworthy – will have to be used instead.
The National Cyber Security revealed that Huawei’s products are not secure after the US issued new sanctions against the firm, meaning its microchips are unsafe
The NCSC – part of GCHQ, the Government’s intelligence and security organisation – has long-standing concerns that after seven years they may not be able to minimise the security risks of using Huawei equipment.
Spy chiefs blamed uncertainty over fast-evolving technologies.
A source privy to a conversation among spy chiefs about the seven-year time limit told the Mail: ‘They can only guarantee the security of the network for seven years.’
Mr Dowden told LBC Radio this morning: ‘In relation to Huawei, we’ve had these US sanctions that were imposed a couple of months ago. I’ve asked the National Cyber Security Centre to analyse the impact of them.
‘It seems likely they’re going to have a significant impact on the reliability of Huawei, I’ve just received that advice, I will be discussing that with the Prime Minister and if there’s any change of policy arising from it I will make an announcement.
‘I would certainly aim to do that before Parliament rises for the summer recess, so later this month.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that the Government wanted to be confident the network was ‘secure’ when it made a decision about Huawei.
Intelligence chiefs at NCSC – part of GCHQ, has long-standing concerns that they may not be able to minimise the security risks surrounding Huawei after seven years
He said the US sanctions meant that ‘UK intelligence services can no longer provide assurances’ that Chinese equipment is safe to use in the UK’s network.
US officials have warned repeatedly that they believe Huawei could be used as a backdoor for spying by the Chinese state.
Huawei hit back yesterday. Spokesman Paul Harrison accused the UK of allowing President Donald Trump to dictate its policy.
And Victor Zhang, vice-president of Huawei, said: ‘All our products and solutions use technology and components over which the UK government has strict oversight. Our technology is already extensively used in 5G networks across the country