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MI5 head shrugs off risk to intelligence sharing from Huawei links

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Andrew Parker, head of MI5, says he has “no cause to suppose” that the UK’s intelligence-sharing relationship with the US can be hit if Britain adopted Huawei know-how in its 5G cell phone community, as a key resolution on the problem looms.

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Sir Andrew’s feedback will improve expectations in UK authorities and trade circles that the Chinese language firm’s gear will likely be permitted to be used in some “non-core” elements of the community.

Boris Johnson’s authorities will on Monday face last-minute lobbying from Washington to exclude Huawei from the nation’s 5G community, because the prime minister prepares to decide — anticipated this month — with large geopolitical and financial penalties.

Washington has warned that if Chinese language know-how is utilized by the UK then intelligence sharing might be undermined. However blocking Huawei can be expensive to the telecoms sector and deal a heavy blow to the rollout of the brand new knowledge know-how in Britain.

Beijing has additionally been placing strain on Mr Johnson to not jeopardise the UK-China relationship and the choice will likely be seen as a key indicator of how the prime minister intends to place Britain in a post-Brexit world.

A US delegation comprising representatives from the Nationwide Financial Council and Nationwide Safety Company will arrive in London for a last-minute lobbying effort with UK officers on Monday.

However in an interview with the FT, Sir Andrew, who’s stepping down as director-general of MI5 in April, stated the hyperlinks within the “5 eyes” intelligence partnership between Britain, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand had been “the strongest they’ve been”.

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He stated the US-UK partnership was “very shut and trusted”, including: “It’s, after all, of nice significance to us. And, I dare say, to the US too, although that’s for them to say. It’s a two-way avenue.”

10/01/2020 Sir Andrew Parker, Director General of MI5. Photographed in his office this afternoon.
Sir Andrew Parker, director basic of MI5 © Charlie Bibby/FT

When requested particularly whether or not he thought that the UK would lose out on intelligence relationships if the federal government determined to go forward with Huawei, he stated he didn’t suppose this was a hazard. “I’ve no cause at the moment to suppose that,” he stated.

Sir Andrew acknowledged that safety considerations alone mustn’t at all times “dominate and dictate” a call, and that Mr Johnson and his nationwide safety council had been left with a tough resolution as a result of there have been so few suppliers available in the market.

All 4 cell networks in Britain have now launched 5G with Vodafone, BT, EE and Three all utilizing the Chinese language firm’s gear on the so-called non-core degree — such because the antennas and base stations used on masts and rooftops — however not within the “core” community operations the place buyer particulars are held and calls are routed.

“Maybe the factor that wants extra focus and extra dialogue is how can we get to a future the place there’s a wider vary of competitors and a wider vary of sovereign decisions than defaulting to a sure or no about Chinese language know-how,” Sir Andrew stated.

British authorities officers admit that blocking Huawei now would deal a blow to customers, noting that Huawei was getting used as a result of its gear was seen nearly as good worth.

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Despite US strain, some contained in the UK authorities and throughout the telecoms trade anticipate Mr Johnson to reach at an analogous resolution to the one taken by Theresa Could’s nationwide safety council in April 2019, when ministers agreed to permit Huawei to construct some “non-core” elements of the community.

A subsequent resolution to evaluation the problem — following strain from the Trump administration — has created nice uncertainty within the trade.

Downing Avenue insiders stress that no resolution has been taken and that the ministers making the choice this month — together with Mr Johnson — had been “a brand new forged” who had been trying on the proof afresh. Solely Sajid Javid, now chancellor however then residence secretary, stays of the ministers on Mrs Could’s NSC in April 2019.

Further reporting by Nic Fildes in London and Kiran Stacey in Washington

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