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The purchase of new 5G equipment from Chinese tech giant Huawei will be banned after December 31, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told MPs. He told MPs Huawei equipment already in the UK’s 5G networks must be removed by 2027. The Tory frontbencher said the UK will seek “a modern and mature relationship with China based on mutual respect” as he warned Beijing Britain will remain “clear-eyed”.
Oliver Dowden said that from the end of 2020, telecommunications operators must not buy any 5G equipment from Huawei.
He said: “The best way to secure our networks is for operators to stop using new affected Huawei equipment to build the UK’s future 5G networks.
“So to be clear, from the end of this year, telecoms operators must not buy any 5G equipment from Huawei and once the telecoms security Bill is passed, it will be illegal for them to do so.”
The National Security Council took the decision – which will increase tensions with Beijing – after the impact of US sanctions raised concerns about Huawei’s continued involvement in the UK’s 5G infrastructure.
From next year, telecoms firms will be banned from purchasing new 5G equipment from Huawei.
They will also 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.
The decisions were taken at a meeting of the National Security Council chaired by Boris Johnson on Tuesday morning.
It followed an assessment of the impact of US sanctions by experts from the National Cyber Security Centre.
In January, ministers announced Huawei could play a limited role in the 5G network, despite warnings that its equipment could be used by China for espionage or to disrupt the UK’s critical national infrastructure.
Ahead of Mr Dowden’s announcement, some Tory MPs have been pressing for a “rip out” deadline for Huawei to be set before the next general election – due in 2024 – amid fears of a lobbying campaign by the firm to reverse the decision.
BT chief executive Philip Jansen warned on Monday that removing Huawei kit from the 5G network could take five to seven years, while taking it out of the entire UK telecoms network could require a decade.
Last week China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, urged the Government not to shut out Huawei warning there would be “consequences” if Britain tried to treat China as a “hostile country”.
But Tom Tugendhat, Tory chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, has called on the Government to take the opportunity to distance itself even further from Beijing.
In a column in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Tugendhat said Mr Liu’s comments signalled it was time for the UK to kick its “addiction to Beijing tech”.
He wrote: “To keep power distributed and trade on the basis of law, not force, we need a new alliance.
“Going further than the World Trade Organisation and recognising the importance of India and Nigeria, would reinforce the interdependence of democracies against authoritarian regimes.
“We have the innovations and size that could create a market for companies that share our values.
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“The majority won’t be British but they’ll share our values, and that will protect us all.”
His sentiment was echoed by former Conservative leader William Hague, who wrote in the Telegraph: “What matters is that we should not be strategically dependent on Chinese technology for the future, and that will require building up the production of alternative companies.
“It is not essential to rip everything out immediately – we just have to be able to maintain our own critical infrastructure for the long term.”
Relations between the two countries were already under intense strain after Britain offered three million Hongkongers a path to settle in the UK following the imposition by Beijing of a new national security law on the former British colony.
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