First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has expressed concerns over the controversial decision to allow Huawei, which has strong links to the Chinese Government, to play a major role in the UK’s 5G network.
“There are very big, and very real, security concerns around Huawei’s access to 5G,” she said.
“Obviously I am not privy to all of the information that the UK Government has, but I think we have to act very much in a precautionary basis when we are building digital infrastructure, to make sure that we are doing that in a robust way that has security very much at its heart.”
It seems likely that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will push ahead with the deal. Johnson is set to chair a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) to discuss the plan. The NSC meeting will decide whether or not to allow Huawei to operate parts of the new network.
The move could potentially alienate the US and see a crucial transatlantic trade deal shelved when the UK exits the European Union.
A senior US official told the Wall Street Journal that “the appetite for a US-UK trade agreement could be diminished by the UK making the wrong decision on Huawei.”
Senior Tories have also raised concerns over the deal and have called for a delay on the decision. Former party leader Iain Duncan Smith described the decision to grant access to Huawei as “utterly bizarre”.
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“How ironic then that even as we battle the Chinese in cyberspace, we are now discussing handing over a significant involvement in our national 5G network,” he added.
While Tom Tugendhat said it would be tantamount to allowing the Chinese government “nest a dragon” in the UK’s digital infrastructure.
Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely warned, “Whoever controls 5G will affect significantly our rule of law, our data privacy, our security and our freedom to support our allies.”
Huawei has always denied links to the Chinese government and being involved in espionage.
Carol Monaghan, the SNP education spokeswoman at Westminster, said: “Many serious questions have been raised over Huawei, so it seems reckless even to consider it for the 5G network . . . As we become ever more reliant on the internet of things, the ability to shut down a network poses a serious threat to our national security.”
Previously, Sturgeon has actively sought Chinese investment and Huawei is already in a major partnership with Edinburgh University.
And, although the telecom firm is working with the university to connect 5G networks to internet of things devices, such as webcams and surgical robots, the Scottish Government has not raised any such concerns.
Previously, Sturgeon has been accused of putting China first by favouring Chinese firms over local ones. One incident that sparked criticism was when a Chinese firm was selected to provide the steel for the new Queensferry Crossing instead of a local one.