Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to bar the Chinese tech giant Huawei from playing any role in Britain’s 5G network, triggering a renewed clash with Beijing. Debating the issue on ITV Good Morning Britain with former Brexit Secretary David Davis, ITV host Ben Shephard claimed it would take 18 months to reverse the original agreement between the Chinese tech giant and the UK.
But the Tory MP was quick to correct Mr Shephard, blasting: “Number one, the 18-month number is nonsense.
“It depends what you’re looking at. If you’re looking at the aerial design, Huawei is better off.
“If you look at the speed of 5G, probably Nokia are better.
“So, it’s not a simple yes or no. It’s a bit like comparing two mobile phones.”
The Prime Minister is chairing a meeting on Tuesday of the National Security Council (NSC) which is expected to end any involvement by the firm in building the 5G system.
The decision – following intense pressure from both the US administration of Donald Trump and backbench Tory MPs – marks a major U-turn by the Government.
In January, ministers announced Huawei could play a limited role in the 5G network, despite warnings that its equipment could be used by China for espionage or to disrupt the UK’s critical national infrastructure.
However, it is expected that the Government will now announce that no new Huawei equipment can be installed in the network from as early as next year.
It is also expected to announce a so-called “rip out” date by which all the existing Huawei equipment must be removed.
Details will be set out by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden in a Commons statement following the NSC meeting.
Some Tory MPs have been pressing for a “rip out” deadline for Huawei to be set before the next general election – due in 2024 – amid fears of a lobbying campaign by the firm to reverse the decision.
He wrote: “To keep power distributed and trade on the basis of law, not force, we need a new alliance. Going further than the World Trade Organisation and recognising the importance of India and Nigeria, would reinforce the interdependence of democracies against authoritarian regimes.
“We have the innovations and size that could create a market for companies that share our values. The majority won’t be British but they’ll share our values, and that will protect us all.”
His sentiment was echoed by former Conservative leader William Hague, who wrote in the Telegraph: “What matters is that we should not be strategically dependent on Chinese technology for the future, and that will require building up the production of alternative companies.
“It is not essential to rip everything out immediately – we just have to be able to maintain our own critical infrastructure for the long term.”
Relations between the two countries were already under intense strain after Britain offered three million Hongkongers a path to settle in the UK following the imposition by Beijing of a new national security law on the former British colony.