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UK set to phase out Huawei from its 5G network, says FT report

Decision expected this month; Boris Johnson under intense pressure from the US to cut ties with Huawei

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The FT says Mr Johnson is drawing up plans to remove the Huawei technology from Britain's 5G network after warnings that the US sanctions could curtail the company's access to American semiconductors and force it to use riskier supplies.

London

BRITAIN will decide this month to phase out Chinese technology giant Huawei's equipment from the nation's 5G network amid persistent spying concerns, The Financial Times reported on Monday citing government officials.

A UK security investigation, yet to be published, has raised "very, very serious" questions over Huawei's limited 5G role in Britain, the FT said.

Separately on Monday, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed he had received the National Cyber Security Centre report, adding that there would be a "significant impact" on Huawei's 5G role in Britain.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under intense pressure from the US to cut ties with Huawei.

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US officials argue that the company could spy on Western communications or simply shut down the UK network under orders from Beijing - a charge the company denies.

Huawei's position has been complicated further by the US administration's decision to roll out a new wave of sanctions aimed at crippling the company's production of the chips used in 5G.

The FT said Mr Johnson was drawing up plans to remove the Huawei technology from Britain's 5G network after warnings that the US sanctions could curtail the company's access to American semiconductors and force it to use riskier supplies.

"If the US imposes sanctions, we believe that could have a significant impact on the reliability of Huawei equipment and when we can use it safely," Mr Dowden told Sky News on Monday when asked about the prospect of phasing out Huawei. "If it's appropriate to change policy, we'll clearly make a statement to the House of Commons when we've been through that and made a decision,"

Speaking later on LBC Radio, Mr Dowden said he'd make a statement on Huawei to Parliament before it rises for summer recess on July 22.

If taken, the decision would mark a U-turn by Mr Johnson's administration, which in January cleared Huawei to participate in the UK's 5G build-out subject to strict conditions, including a 35per cent cap on its involvement and a bar on its gear being used in parts of the network deemed sensitive. Ministers argued the UK needed diversity in its suppliers, and that any risks involved in using Chinese equipment could be mitigated.

But the decision was opposed by Donald Trump's administration, which wanted Mr Johnson to impose an outright ban on the Shenzhen-based tech giant, citing concerns that its gear could be vulnerable to infiltration by Chinese spies. The UK prime minister also faced growing hostility from opponents within his own Conservative Party, who believed they had the numbers to block any legislation on the matter.

Liu Xiaoming, China's ambassador to the UK, said if the British government does ban Huawei it would show that it could no longer follow an independent foreign policy.

"If you dance to the tune of other countries, how can you call yourself Great Britain?" Mr Liu told reporters on a video conference call on Monday. He added that such a move would "punish Britain's image" as a supporter of free trade and damage trust between China and the UK. "If you do not want Huawei, it is up to you," he said.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Parliament's Defence Committee on June 30 that US sanctions on Huawei - which put its microchip supply in jeopardy - are "designed to make 5G designed by Huawei very hard to do". Sitting alongside him, Culture Secretary Dowden said the sanctions were "likely to have an impact on the viability of Huawei as a provider for the 5G network".

He also said Huawei won't be part of the UK's 5G telecommunications networks in the long term, adding that he welcomes approaches from alternative vendors including South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co and Japan's NEC Corp.

Mr Dowden may provide Mr Johnson with formal advice as soon as this week on Huawei, according to the person familiar.

"We are considering the impact the US's additional sanctions against Huawei could have on UK networks," the British government said on Sunday in an emailed statement. "This is an ongoing process and we will update further in due course." For its part, Huawei said in a statement on Sunday it's "open to discussions" with the government.

"We are working closely with our customers to find ways of managing the proposed US restrictions so the UK can maintain its current lead in 5G", Huawei vice-president Victor Zhang said. "We believe it is too early to determine the impact of the proposed restrictions, which are not about security, but about market position. AFP, BLOOMBERG

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