Ministers vowed to ‘stand up for British values and security’ today after China threatened ‘consequences’ if Huawei is barred from involvement in the 5G network.
The government is set to U-turn on allowing the firm a role in the huge project after intelligence agencies warned US sanctions had raised doubts about security.
Conservative MPs are now pushing for the company’s technology to be removed from telecoms infrastructure altogether by 2024.
And they have broadened their demands to cover China’s involvement in other core parts of the economy, including nuclear plants. However, former chancellor Philip Hammond has voiced alarm about an ‘alarming’ outbreak of ‘anti-China sentiment’ in the Tory party.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma appeared to confirm this morning that wider ties with Beijing are being reviewed, with the nuclear projects on the table. But he played down fears over the mounting tensions, insisting: ‘I don’t think there is any inconsistency in welcoming inward investment and at the same time standing up for the UK’s values and interests and our security.’
The government is set to U-turn on allowing Huawei a role in the 5G project after intelligence agencies warned US sanctions had raised doubts about security
Former chancellor Philip Hammond (left) has voiced alarm about an ‘alarming’ outbreak of ‘anti-China sentiment’ in the Tory party. Business Secretary Alok Sharma (right) played down fears over the mounting tensions with Beijing this morning
Trump dirty dossier spy reveals how China ‘targets British VIPs’
The diplomatic war over Huawei took an extraordinary twist today after a controversial dossier accused China of trying to manipulate key Establishment figures in the UK.
Entitled China’s Elite Capture, the 86-page report details an alleged campaign by Beijing to persuade influential individuals to back Huawei and its strategic aims.
Among a string of incendiary claims, the dossier described the Chinese telecoms firm as ‘Beijing’s strategic asset’ and cited fears it could be used for state spying.
It said politicians, academics and other ‘elites’ in the UK had been targeted by China in an attempt to secure their support for Huawei’s integration into Britain’s technology infrastructure.
China’s Elite Capture was compiled with the help of former MI6 spy Christopher Steele, among others.
Mr Steele is known for his role in drawing up a ‘dirty dossier’ about Russia and Donald Trump.
China warned of ‘consequences’ and accused the UK of bowing to US pressure yesterday amid signs Huawei will be dropped from 5G.
Beijing’s ambassador Liu Xiaoming said shutting out the company due to the US imposing sanctions would show Britain no longer has an ‘independent’ policy.
He insisted the UK will have to pay more for the crucial telecoms technology if it shuns Huawei, and added: ‘You cannot have a golden era if you treat us as an enemy.’
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said he had received the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) assessment, and the US decision to levy sanctions on Huawei would have a ‘significant impact’ on its reliability.
Although no final decisions have been taken, expectations are rising that ministers will announce proposals this month to strip out the company’s kit from the wider UK telecoms network by 2029.
However, dozens of Conservative MPs want the government to go further and complete the process by the end of this parliament in 2024.
State-owned China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) has invested billions of pounds in the Hinkley Point C plant, under construction in Somerset.
The firm is also seeking approval to build a nuclear reactor at Bradwell in Essex.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether the Government would be reviewing China’s investment in UK nuclear power, Mr Sharma said: ‘We will be looking at all of this in the round.
‘The key thing I just want to say is … we will look at all investments that are made in the UK, we will look at that against the criteria we have set out in the Enterprise Act, that will be set out in the National Security Investment Bill, and that will be for all investments that are made rather than picking and choosing individual countries.’
On the fate of Huawei, Mr Sharma said: ‘I don’t want to go into the details of a particular country but you will know that, as a result of the initial sanctions that the US has put in place against Huawei specifically, we are having a look to see what the impact would be on UK networks.
‘There is a process ongoing, we will see what that review comes to and we will set out our next steps.’
Mr Hammond said the UK should not be distancing itself from China while ‘loosening ties’ with Europe.
Beijing’s ambassador Liu Xiaoming (file picture) said shutting out the company due to the US imposing sanctions would show Britain no longer has an ‘independent’ policy
He told Today: ‘Right now, the UK is in the process of loosening its ties with trade partners in Europe in the name of expanding its global reach.
‘It seems to me this is not a time to be wanting to weaken our trade links with the world’s second largest economy.
‘We have to find a way, and I think we have done it in the past with many countries, of continuing to trade, continuing to invest and welcome investment from countries with which we have frank disagreements about political issues.’
The ex-foreign secretary said he is ‘concerned about the outbreak of anti-Chinese sentiment within the Conservative Party’ and called its rise ‘alarming’.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative leader, told The Times he supported ‘a campaign for zero’ participation by Chinese companies in critical UK energy infrastructure.
‘We’ve got to rethink our whole energy strategy now. We don’t need them to come and build thundering great energy plants,’ he said.
‘China right now is not a diplomatic country with a tolerance of fair, reason-able sense of justice. They are an unreasonable government hell-bent on domination,’ Sir Iain added.
Tory MP Bob Seely added: ‘We cannot have China in our critical national infrastructure.’