Allowing Chinese tech firm Huawei to participate in the UK’s 5G network poses an unnecessary risk to national security, the former head of MI6 has warned.
Sir Richard Dearlove has called for a total ban on Huawei, warning that no Chinese company could be free from the influence of the communist state.
“To place China in a potentially advantageous exploitative position in the UK’s future telecommunications systems is a risk, however remote it may seem at the moment, we simply do not need to take,” he wrote in a foreword to a major report by foreign policy think tank the Henry Jackson Society.
The government has come under fire after it emerged the UK will block Huawei from core parts of its 5G network, but allow it to participate in non-core areas such as antennas.
But the report has rejected the UK’s mooted strategy, which was leaked from a national security meeting last month, as “no solution at all”.
The intervention came hours after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order effectively banning American companies from doing business with Huawei.
Dearlove, who served as head of MI6 between 1999 and 2004, said the UK should not be influenced by potential economic costs and urged the government to blackball the Chinese company.
“I very much hope there is time for the UK government to reconsider the Huawei decision,” he said. “Furthermore, a post-Brexit government must not worry about giving offence to China by going back on the decision.”
The government has said it is yet to reach a final verdict on the Huawei saga, but has insisted it would not do anything to jeopardize national security.
The issue has sparked conflict within the Cabinet and an inquiry into the security meeting leak led to the sacking of defence secretary Gavin Williamson.
Foreign Affairs Select Committee member Bob Seely, who co-authored the report, slammed the government’s approach to Huawei, dismissing the idea that any risks could be mitigated.
“The assurances relied on by government to justify Huawei’s entry into the 5G are, in our considered view, insufficiently robust to justify the associated risks,” he said.
The report called for the UK to follow the example of Australia, which has banned Huawei, and warned it is “unclear” what damage the decision could do to the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement.
A spokesperson for Huawei dismissed the report, describing it as “long on politically-motivated insinuation but short on fact”.
“We are an independent, employee-owned company which does not take instructions from the Chinese government. In 32 years, there have been no significant cyber security issues with our equipment.”
The spokesperson added: “We hope and expect that any decision on Huawei’s participation in Britain’s build-out of 5G networks will be based on solid evidence, rather than on unfounded speculation and groundless accusations”