The first rule of any Government is to protect.
Protect its citizens, its territory and its sovereignty. In short, upholding its national security. This has been, and continues to be acknowledged by all leaders, whatever their political affiliation, and wherever they come from, and it could not be more relevant than it is today.
The United Kingdom and our closest allies now face some of the most pressing security threats in a post-War era from an assorted range of aggressors. Whether this includes increasingly threatening State actors, relentless terrorist organisations or rogue Cyber intellectuals, to name just a few, the list is stark, and the threat is growing ever more prevalent each day.
It is welcome that the government is reportedly set to end all Huawei involvement within Britain’s 5G network by 2023. Yet, this does not go far enough.
And now, more than ever before, our national security is of crucial importance. Crucial for strengthening our democracy, crucial for maximising our freedom, and crucial for upholding our Great British values. It is also crucial for a post-Brexit Global Britain, if we are indeed to take full advantage of developing our strategic relationships with the likes of North America, Australia and New Zealand.
It is therefore difficult to comprehend the British government’s recent decision to allow Huawei to help build our 5G network, albeit ‘limited’. Despite the breadth, or lack of, Huawei’s role in the UK’s 5G network, it is clear, as I will explain, that any involvement will be harmful to our national security, integrity and strategic relationship with allies abroad.
Last March, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) determined in its fifth annual oversight report of Huawei, that it could “only provide limited assurance that all risks to UK national security from Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s critical networks can be sufficiently mitigated long-term.” In addition, fellow Five Eyes members the United States, Australia and New Zealand have all prohibited Huawei from any involvement in its respective 5G networks, whilst India and Germany have also raised concerns of their own. This combination of domestic and international apprehension towards Huawei should pose as a stark warning to us all, and demonstrate the risk to our strategic partnerships with the rest of the world. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made clear in January, Huawei poses a real “security risk,” with the potential to fracture UK-US intelligence sharing, as well as strategic partnerships with Five Eyes countries and NATO, both of which are the bedrock of our security. We cannot risk it.
All of these trepidations point to Huawei’s reputation for precarious behaviour, of which has not gone undetected. Primarily, Huawei has been repeatedly linked by US intel to the Communist State of China, an increasingly foreboding power, of which is currently under scrutiny for its clear failure to mitigate the spread of coronavirus across the globe. Coronavirus alone demands a change in Britain’s future bilateral diplomatic relationship with China, rather than self-serving bowing at their behest. It was therefore right for Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to promise “no return to normal business” with the Communist State once the coronavirus is controlled. Further to speculated links to China, Huawei this year came under further scrutiny after two of its employees were detained on accusations of spying on Poland through its critical network. These examples should broaden the depth of awareness we hold when making critical decisions to do with networks that embed nearly everything we do.
It is therefore welcome that the government is reportedly set to end all Huawei involvement within Britain’s 5G network by 2023. Yet, this does not go far enough. If the UK is to sincerely preserve its strong and rational place in the world, whilst grasping the full opportunities that lie ahead, it needs not waste time and should end all Huawei involvement by Christmas. The swiftness of a decision is critical. Now I emphasise this aspect because it really is significant. Just last week, it was reported that the US plans to launch an enquiry into the potential damage Huawei’s 5G role in Britain could cause on the UK-US strategic intelligence sharing relationship, thus reinforcing the gravity of the situation upon our future collective security.
Ultimately, the reality is that Brexit has been repeatedly branded as an opportunity for Britain to take back control from the European Union. It therefore begs the question as to why we would then yield aspects of our sovereignty to China, through Huawei’s espionage, as some believe. What’s more, we cannot risk the uncertainty of a damaged economy subsequent to coronavirus, in conjunction with fractured diplomatic relationships in the West, if we are to proceed with Huawei. And let us remember that Huawei is not the only option on the table. Nokia and Ericsson have already pitched themselves as alternatives to Huawei, and have demonstrated clearly their suitability for the challenge.
The solution therefore is clear. If we want to take full advantage of the Global opportunities that lie ahead, whilst maintaining our integrity amongst our closest allies and in respect to our security, we must scrap the decision on Huawei by the end of the year and choose a safe alternative; putting the security of our people and closest friends abroad first.
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