Boris Johnson and Donald Trump have discussed telecommunications network security as the UK government prepares to make a final decision on allowing Huawei to help build Britain’s 5G infrastructure.
The US administration has warned allies not to allow the Chinese tech giant to form part of their 5G networks, claiming it would be a security risk — something Huawei vehemently denies.
Security of telecoms networks was discussed in a phone call between the two leaders on Friday, according to the White House, amid reports that UK officials have backed the firm to play a role.
“The two leaders discussed important regional and bilateral issues, including working together to ensure the security of our telecommunications networks,” a White House statement said.
A Downing Street spokeswoman added: “The prime minister spoke to President Trump. They discussed a range of issues, including cooperation to ensure the security of our telecommunications networks.”
US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin was expected to raise the issue in talks with Sajid Javid on Saturday morning in efforts to persuade the UK to exclude the Chinese firm from its telecoms infrastructure.
Speaking at Chatham House following the breakfast meeting with the chancellor, he warned it is “critical” infrastructure is protected. “If you look at the role of technology, it is critical that we have infrastructure that is protected.
“And we have important relationships, and I think what’s clear is for the role of government and the role of national security issues and the role of defence, we want to make sure our infrastructures are protected.
“And I think on a broader basis… as more and more things are connected to the network and to the grid, these national security issues go beyond the traditional aspects and go into various different aspects. I think the real issue for us is making sure that the networks and infrastructure are properly protected.”
A final decision by the UK’s National Security Council of senior ministers is widely expected next week.
Last year, the US imposed trade restrictions on Huawei over concerns about the company’s security and ties to the Chinese government.
Allegations that its telecoms equipment could be used to spy on people has been repeatedly denied by the tech giant. — Reported by Emma Bowden and Harriet Line