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The UK is reviewing Huawei’s role in its 5G network again, and it’s a new sign it could still cave to US pressure

The UK is reviewing Huawei’s role in its 5G network again, and it’s a new sign it could still cave to US pressure

Boris Johnson Donald Trump

The UK looks like it might cave to US pressure to ditch Huawei.

Britain’s cybersecurity center the NCSC announced on Sunday it would conduct a new review into Huawei’s role in the UK’s 5G network.

“Following the US announcement of additional sanctions against Huawei, the NCSC is looking carefully at any impact they could have to the UK’s networks,” an NCSC spokesman told the BBC on Sunday.

The new US sanctions announced earlier this month make it harder for chip manufacturers using US-made parts to sell to Huawei. The sanctions were brought in to close loopholes left after the US placed Huawei on a trade blacklist last year.

In theory, Huawei’s inability to access chip software as a result of the sanctions might undermine its promise to the UK and other markets of a speedy 5G rollout.

Reports also emerged on Sunday that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to announce he will reduce Huawei’s presence in the UK’s 5G network to zero by 2023.

In January 2020, the UK appeared to reject US pressure to exclude Huawei from its 5G networks entirely, saying it would allow Huawei to build “non-core” parts of its infrastructure and cap its presence in the network at 35%. This reportedly led to a furious phone call between President Trump and Johnson which ended in Trump slamming the phone down.

The US and Huawei have been locked in a firefight for over a year now, with the US claiming Huawei acts as a proxy for the Chinese government to spy — which Huawei denies. The tension seems to have ramped back up in recent weeks, with the US announcing its new sanctions.

Johnson has also faced discontent within his party with his decision to allow Huawei, and in March fended off a rebellion from Conservative MPs by just 24 votes.

Responding to the announcement of the new UK review, Huawei Vice President Victor Zhang told the BBC: “Our priority remains to continue the rollout of a reliable and secure 5G networks across Britain.”

“We are happy to discuss with NCSC any concerns they may have and hope to continue the close working relationship we have enjoyed for the last ten years,” said Zhang.

Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, chair of the foreign affairs select committee and a constant Huawei critic, praised the UK review. “I’ve been asking for this for 3 years,” he wrote on Twitter. “The US sanctions make it even more necessary. We need to rethink our dependence on countries that don’t share our values and seek to undermine our interests.”

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