Theresa May has reportedly given the go-ahead to Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to help build Britain’s new 5G network despite warnings of the potential threat to national security.
The National Security Council (NSC), chaired by the Prime Minister, agreed on Tuesday to allow the firm limited access to build “non-core” infrastructure such as antennas, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Several ministers were said to have raised concerns about the decision.
Digital minister Margot James played down the Telegraph report, tweeting: “In spite of Cabinet leaks to the contrary, final decision yet to be made on managing threats to telecoms infrastructure.”
What are the concerns over Huawei?
Huawei's devices are already in many homes across the UK but there are fears a more wide-scale roll-out could pose a threat to the UK’s security.
Critics say the Chinese government could require the firm to install “back doors” to enable it spy on or disable Britain’s communications network.
It states the company has made "no material progress" to address issues it was first confronted with a year ago.
The fear is its technology could give Beijing a tempting opportunity to gather sensitive information on British interests and launch cyber-attacks with ease.
While the report said British researchers saw nothing that pointed to Chinese government interference, it did say Huawei had not repaired flaws that might make it vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
Has Huawei ever been caught spying?
In January, a Huawei employee working on 5G services was arrested in Poland on suspicion of spying, along with a former member of the Polish intelligence service.
Huawei later sacked the employee, named as Wang Weijing, saying he had acted on his own and brought the firm into disrepute.
In a statement, Huawei said it “complies with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries where it operates, and we require every employee to abide by the laws and regulations in the countries where they are based”.
Who was against Theresa May's decision?
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Home Secretary Sajid Javid are reportedly among those against the decision.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt also opposed the decision, according to The Telegraph.
What has Downing Street said? And what have critics said?
Downing Street refused to comment on the report. A spokeswoman said: “We don’t comment on NSC discussions.”
MI6 chief Alex Younger has said Britain needs to decide how “comfortable” it is in allowing Chinese firms to become involved, while the head of GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has spoken of both “opportunities and threats” which they present.
Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat who tweeted: “Allowing Huawei into the UK’s 5G infrastructure would cause allies to doubt our ability to keep data secure and erode the trust essential to #FiveEyes [a security alliance between the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia] cooperation.
“There’s a reason others have said no.”
A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokeswoman said the security and resilience of the UK’s telecoms networks is of “paramount importance”.
“As part of our plans to provide world class digital connectivity, including 5G, we have conducted a review of the supply chain to ensure a diverse and secure supply base, now and into the future,” she said.
“This is a thorough review into a complex area and will report with its conclusions in due course.”
Have any other countries banned Huawei from its government networks?
The US labelled the company a security threat and has banned its networks, encouraging other countries to do the same.
Australia, Japan and Taiwan have imposed curbs on use of Huawei technology, but Germany, France and other governments have resisted US demands to exclude it from 5G networks.
Huawei has opened testing centres in Britain, Germany and Belgium for regulators to examine its products.
Chinese officials and some industry analysts have suggested the Trump administration might be exaggerating security concerns to hinder a competitor to US tech brands.
During a recent press conference to announce the company's annual report, Chairman Guo said the US Government had a "loser's attitude", calling the US "sore" because the most powerful country in the world cannot compete with .
The UK’s decision is likely to lead to fresh strains with the US, which has banned Huawei from its government networks and urged the other nations in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance – the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada – to do the same.
Representatives from all five countries will meet at the NCSC annual conference CYBERUK in Glasgow on Wednesday.
They will discuss their experiences and how they work together to defend against shared cyber security threats during a public session at the Scottish Event Campus.
This comes just as Theresa May has given the green light.