National security officials from the U.S. visited the U.K. on Monday to push their claim that allowing Chinese telecom giant Huawei access to the country’s 5G networks would be “nothing short of madness.”
Less than 24 hours later, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested once again that when he does make a final decision on the matter, he will likely ignore Washington’s concerns and allow the Chinese company access to the non-core part of the U.K.’s next-generation cell phone network.
“The British public deserve to have access to the best possible technology. We want to put in gigabit broadband for everybody,” Johnson told the BBC. “Now if people oppose one brand or another, then they have to tell us what’s the alternative.”
Johnson’s comments came days after the head of MI5, Andrew Parker, said he had “no reason to think” that using Huawei technology should threaten intelligence sharing with the U.S.
On Monday, the U.S. delegation, led by deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, presented ministers in Westminster with new evidence claiming to show security risks posed by using the Chinese firm. For the last two years, the U.S. government has claimed Huawei has provided the Chinese government with back-door access to its equipment to conduct widespread surveillance.
One U.S. official speaking to the Guardian said that the U.S. president hopes not to fall out with Johnson over the issue, but warned, “Donald Trump is watching closely.”
Adding to the complexity of the situation is the U.K.’s imminent departure from the EU, triggering crucial trade talks between London and Washington in the coming months.