Boris Johnson Faces Challenge From His Own Tory Side on Huawei

(Bloomberg) -- For the third time in two weeks, Conservative politicians put Prime Minister Boris Johnson through some tough questioning over Huawei Technologies Co., a sign he could yet face battles over his plan to allow the Chinese company to help build the U.K.’s next-generation wireless networks.

The government said Jan. 28 Huawei would be allowed to supply equipment to so-called non-core parts of Britain’s 5G networks, drawing anger from Members of Parliament in Johnson’s party who said it would leave the country vulnerable to Chinese spying or even sabotage. The announcement followed a session of hostile questions in Parliament the previous day on the same issue.

Following his weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session on Wednesday, Johnson will know his party isn’t going to let the matter drop. Two former senior Cabinet ministers, Damian Green and David Davis, both demanded assurances that the U.K. would encourage the development of alternatives to Huawei and to remove the company’s equipment from networks as soon as possible.

Green told Johnson that France is building its networks without Huawei: “If they can do it, we could do it.”

Johnson said he agreed with Green that the situation wasn’t ideal, but explained -- again -- the bind the government is in. He also said he would never do anything to undermine intelligence-sharing with allies, including the U.S.

Huawei is one of three companies involved in the U.K.’s 5G rollout, the others being Ericsson AB and Nokia Oyj. The government has said Huawei must be included because the U.K. can’t rely on only two vendors.

“What has happened is, I’m afraid, a failure of like-minded countries to produce an alternative,” Johnson said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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