The British government, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, decided Tuesday to allow Chinese tech giant Huawei to build parts of the country’s 5G network, in defiance of U.S. concerns over national security risks and the potential for Chinese espionage.
The U.K.’s National Security Council green-lit the move to go ahead with “high risk vendor” Huawei amidst concerns that banning the firm would be an economically costly decision delaying the U.K.’s 5G rollout by up to three years.
The access comes with caveats: Huawei will not be allowed to equip sensitive “core” networks, will be limited to a 35% market share in non-sensitive networks, and will be kept out of areas near military bases and nuclear power stations.
“This is a U.K.-specific solution for U.K.-specific reasons and the decision deals with the challenges we face right now,” communications secretary Nicky Morgan said.
Nevertheless, such concessions are unlikely to assuage the U.S., which has repeatedly expressed fears that Beijing could use Huawei’s involvement as a back-door method of spying on British communications, and warned that it may scale down intelligence cooperation if the U.K. moves forward.
Johnson is set to meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in London this week. The American politician tweeted Sunday that the Huawei decision was a “momentous” one for the U.K. that could put the country’s sovereignty at risk.
“Huawei is reassured by the U.K. government’s confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G roll-out on track,” Huawei vice-president Victor Zhang said in a statement, adding that the “evidence-based decision” will help the U.K. “ensure a competitive market.”