Tory U-turn on Huawei as Trump touches down: PM’s would-be successors back the President’s demand for the Chinese firm to be BANNED from having a role in 5G network project amid security fears
- Trump made clear he intends to press the Government to tear up the plan
- Home Secretary suggested he would scrap the Huawei deal if he becomes PM
- Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt also expressed her concerns about the deal
Theresa May is facing humiliation over her Huawei stance today after Donald Trump demanded the Chinese firm be barred from involvement in the 5G network.
After the US president warned transatlantic security cooperation could be at risk, two of the Tory leadership favourites voiced doubts about the company being involved in the huge project.
Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid signalled they are ready to U-turn on the policy if they take over from Mrs May this summer.
Mr Trump has made clear he intends to push Mrs May to tear up the plan during his three-day state visit. Downing Street is braced for a bruising round of talks – with the PM’s power ebbing quickly after she announced her resignation.
Mr Trump warned ministers to ‘be very careful’ and to seek ‘alternatives’ to Huawei. He could confront publicly confront Mrs May over the issue in a press conference at No10 tomorrow unless she drops the plan.
The US ambassador to Britain also warned there would be consequences for trans-Atlantic intelligence sharing if ministers did not reverse the outgoing Prime Minister’s controversial decision.
Mr Javid told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show he would scrap the Huawei deal if he becomes prime minister
Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt warned of buying telecom products ‘from a specific country’ that may be a ‘backdoor to espionage’
As Mr Trump arrived for what promises to be a dramatic state visit:
- The President’s ambassador triggered a ferocious backlash after suggesting America would want access to the NHS as part of any post-Brexit trade deal;
- Brexiteers, including Esther McVey, backed Mr Trump’s advice to go for a No Deal departure from the EU;
- It was expected the President will try to find time to meet both Boris Johnson and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage;
- Labour was accused of putting the trans-Atlantic ‘special relationship’ at risk with its ‘disgraceful anti-Americanism’;
- A raft of senior Labour MPs were preparing to lead up to 250,000 anti-Trump protesters in this week’s mass demonstration;
- Mr Trump denied calling the Duchess of Sussex ‘nasty’ in response to alleged past criticisms.
Mr Hunt said the UK would make its own decision on whether to use Huawei, but said the UK ‘wouldn’t take any decisions that affected our intelligence-sharing relationship’ with the US.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We will decide what is right in the British national interest and, in reality, we will always make sure that intelligence sharing is done in the most secure channels.’
Last night, Home Secretary Mr Javid suggested he would scrap the Huawei deal if he becomes prime minister.
Mr Hunt said: ‘We have to look at the technical issues which are around whether buying products from a specific country could be a backdoor to espionage’
In an interview on the eve of his visit, Mr Trump called on Britain to seek ‘alternatives’ to Huawei.
US officials believe the Chinese government is using the technology giant to spy on Western countries.
Asked what the consequences would be if the UK presses ahead with the deal, US ambassador Woody Johnson said: ‘I think, to be determined.’
Mr Javid told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show he would scrap the Huawei deal if he becomes prime minister.
He said: ‘I would not want any company, whichever country it’s from, that has a high degree of control by a foreign government, to have access to our very sensitive tech communications.’
And Mr Hunt said: ‘We have to look at the technical issues which are around whether buying products from a specific country could be a backdoor to espionage.
‘And we have to ask as Western countries whether it’s wise to allow one country to have such a commanding monopoly in the technologies that we’re – all of us – going to be depending on.’
The Home Secretary is vying to replace Theresa May as Tory leader and Prime Minister
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt – seen by many as a potential leadership candidate – also expressed her concerns, saying: ‘There are vulnerabilities with just having one supplier, so all nations facing these decisions have to look at the detail, and they have to weigh that up.’
Last week the Mail revealed the close relationship between Mrs May’s Government and Huawei.
Since she became Prime Minister, no fewer than 14 ministers have held meetings with officials from the firm.
Last night, in advance of her meeting with Mr Trump, Mrs May spoke of the importance of the intelligence-sharing relationship between the two countries.
‘Our security relationship is deeper, broader and more advanced than with anyone else,’ she said.
‘Through joint military operations, unrivalled intelligence-sharing and our commitment to Nato, our global leadership remains at the heart of international peace and stability.’
Mr Johnson told the BBC that he would ‘caution’ the British Government to move ‘much more slowly’ on the Huawei decision.
‘I think what you’ve heard from the President and other members of his staff is concern about the risk of allowing your infrastructure to be built by a country that has a totally different setup than we do,’ he said.’
Asked if he wants to see the next prime minister take a different stance, Mr Trump told The Sunday Times: ‘You have other alternatives and we have to be very careful from the standpoint of national security. You see that maybe now more than ever before.
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt – seen by many as a potential leadership candidate – also expressed her concerns
‘National security is so important, so we all have to be very careful together. And the UK understands that very well.’
Tory MP Bob Seely said: ‘Donald Trump will read the riot act to our Government over the Chinese tech giant Huawei.
We – and especially the main Conservative leadership contenders – would be well advised to listen.
Let’s remember who our real friends are; the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and others.
We need to hold off on this decision, think about it, and then say no to Chinese hi-tech in our 5G infrastructure.
‘Trade matters, but so do our allies. We don’t have to choose between the two.’
A Number 10 source said the Huawei issue was being reviewed and an announcement would be made ‘in due course’.