Donald Trump has appeared to take credit for having “convinced many countries” including the UK not to use Huawei after Boris Johnson ordered a ban on the Chinese firm with the country’s 5G network.
Boris Johnson on Tuesday ordered telecoms firms to strip equipment from the Chinese tech giant out of 5G networks by 2027.
The move, which will delay the deployment of 5G technology by up to three years and add billions to the cost, came after the UK’s experts warned that highly restrictive US sanctions meant the security of Huawei’s equipment could not be guaranteed.
The US president said: “I did this myself, for the most part”, as he spoke of having worked to pressure nations to not use Huawei, adding: “If they want to do business with us, they can’t use it.” In a major U-turn provoking criticism from China, the Prime Minister ordered telecoms firms to remove Huawei equipment from the 5G network by 2027. The move, costing billions and delaying the deployment of 5G by up to three years, came after a Government-ordered review found the security of Huawei’s equipment could not be guaranteed because of US sanctions.
Mr Trump boasted in a press conference that no White House “has been tougher on China” than his administration, which the UK is trying to broker a post-Brexit trade deal with. “We convinced many countries — many countries — and I did this myself, for the most part — not to use Huawei because we think it’s an unsafe security risk. It’s a big security risk,” he said. “I talked many countries out of using it. If they want to do business with us, they can’t use it. “Just today, I believe that UK announced that they’re not going to be using it. And that was up in the air for a long time, but they’ve decided.”
While the government’s move pleased Mr Trump, who is facing a fight for re-election, it angered Beijing.
On Wednesday, China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, is set to deliver an online speech on China-Europe relations.
On Tuesday, Mr Xiaoming described the government's Huawei decision as “disappointing and wrong”.
ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward explains how the news has been received in China
Speaking on BBC’s Newsnight, Huawei’s UK communications director Ed Brewster said the decision to remove the company’s 5G technology from the UK stemmed from pressure by Washington to maintain its position as a technological leader.
“It’s a very disappointing decision from our side.
"We are urging the UK government to reconsider that decision,” Mr Brewster said.
“We think its bad news for the UK.
"We think it’s bad news for anyone who’s got a smartphone, bad news for anyone who uses the internet.
“I think this is clear this is not about security, this is about trade.
"This is a US campaign focused on attacking our business and attacking the technology and that’s because the US is behind in terms of the technology.
“Today’s decision is as much driven by trade and US trade policy, US concerns around falling behind in technology.
"We are in a long-term … trade dispute escalation from the US around how it wants to retain technology leadership.”
Mr Brewster also moved to distance the company from the perception that it is a state arm of China, adding: “That’s the perception but it’s incorrect.
"We’re a private technology company.
"The trust we’ve built up around the world is with our customers (and) the telecoms networks.
“We don’t work for governments, we work for the telecoms networks.”
Mr Brewster’s comments come after China’s ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming, who is set to deliver an online speech on China-Europe relations on Tuesday, called the decision “disappointing and wrong”.
He tweeted: “It has become questionable whether the UK can provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for companies from other countries.”
The decision, taken by the National Security Council (NSC), led to concerns being raised in the Commons about the possibility of retaliation from Beijing, but ministers insisted they would not be “cowed” by China.
From next year, telecoms firms will be banned from purchasing new 5G equipment from Huawei and will have to remove all the Chinese company’s kit by 2027.
They are also expected to be ordered to shift away from the purchase of Huawei’s equipment for full-fibre broadband networks over a period lasting up to two years.
However, there are reports a group of Conservative MPs are seeking to have the Chinese company removed from the networks sooner than 2027 – and more comprehensively.
The Daily Telegraph reports the group are preparing amendments to attach to the legislation when it comes before parliament in autumn.
An unnamed source reportedly told The Guardian: “The fight is back on.
"The telecoms infrastructure bill will face amendments to ban 3G and 4G on the same basis as 5G and to bring forward the end date for equipment.
"We are confident they will be successful.”
The decision followed an assessment of the impact of US sanctions by experts from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which removes Huawei’s access to products which have been built based on US semiconductor technology.
Defence Select Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood said the government should “expect repercussions from China” as a result of the decision, with Tory former Cabinet minister David Jones highlighting a warning from Mr Xiaoming of “consequences” if Huawei was banned.
However, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the UK “will not be cowed by the comments of any other country.”
He added: “This decision has been made in the national security interests of this nation.”
The decision was welcomed by the US, which has called for members of the Five Eyes alliance – which also includes the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – to avoid Huawei kit.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: “Today’s decision by the UK to ban Huawei from its 5G networks advances trans-Atlantic security in the 5G era while protecting citizens’ privacy, national security, and free-world values.”
Meanwhile, BT chief executive Philip Jansen said the company was confident its existing networks would not be significantly impacted by the decision.
“The security of our networks is an absolute priority for BT,” Mr Jansen said.
“Clearly this decision has logistical and cost implications for communications providers in the UK market – however, we believe the timescales outlined will allow us to make these changes without impacting on the coverage or resilience of our existing networks.
“It will also allow us to continue to rollout our 5G and full fibre networks without a significant impact on the timescales we’ve previously announced.”