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Tories Reportedly Set to Press Johnson to Axe Huawei From UK Market For Sake of US Trade Deal

© REUTERS / Nacho DoceA cameraman records during Huawei stream product launch event in Barcelona, Spain February 24, 2020
A cameraman records during Huawei stream product launch event in Barcelona, Spain February 24, 2020 - Sputnik International
A little over a month after the UK approved Huawei’s limited involvement in the British digital market, concerns have reportedly arisen as to whether a long sought after trade accord with Washington is still on the table.

A group of around 40 Tories are set to call on Boris Johnson to rethink what they consider to be the controversial decision to allow 35 percent Huawei involvement in the UK’s 5G, The Telegraph reported citing ex-Brexit Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, adding the parliamentarians want the government to curb it to zero in the coming years.

According to Duncan Smith, a long-sought after free trade deal with the US would otherwise be in jeopardy:

“It seems to many that the UK is too concerned about upsetting the Chinese and in continuing to use Huawei we are losing our friends and allies. In the week we launched our hopes for a free trade deal with the USA, our continuing determination to use Huawei now, as President Trump makes clear, puts that trade deal at risk", Smith wrote for telegraph.co.uk.

He explained further stating that as Britain leaves the bloc, the first priority of any government “remains defence of the realm", “Yet now with Huawei embedded its only demi-defence of the realm", he acknowledged.

“The only way out of this mess is that the government should accept we are deeply compromised and ensure that Huawei goes from its present position to not just 35 percent but to 0 percent involvement over the next two to three years", the politician noted.

Iain Duncan Smith is expected to lead Wednesday morning's Westminster Hall debate, set to be joined by his Tory leadership rival, David Davis, former First Secretary of State, Damian Green and Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defence select committee, the British edition wrote.

The reports come as Bob Seely, the Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight requested British telecommunications holding company BT to investigate whether the use of Huawei equipment, the market leader in the 5G segment, is compliant with its anti-slavery policy after an Australian think tank alleged that some of the firm’s subcontractors exploited forced labour from the country’s Muslim minority – Uighurs.

Aсcording to the Financial Times, top Tory figures already voiced their concerns in February. They were reported to have written an open letter to Westminster to urge Boris Johnson to put a damper on what they referred to as “untrusted, high-risk vendors” now and in the future.

Senate Follows House’s Footsteps Over Huawei

In the meantime, across the Atlantic, a 20-strong bipartisan group of US Senators came up with a notice on Tuesday urging British lawmakers to reconsider their government’s decision to allow China’s Huawei to be among the suppliers for the country’s top-notch 5G network, the latest demonstration of Washington's hard-line opposition to the plan.

“Given the significant security, privacy, and economic threats posed by Huawei, we strongly urge the United Kingdom to revisit its recent decision, take steps to mitigate the risks of Huawei, and work in close partnership with the US on such efforts going forward", the senators said in the letter to members of the House of Commons, which received signatures from one fifth of the 100-member Senate, including Chuck Schumer, the chamber’s Democratic leader, and Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

The move closely followed a similar letter by 42 members of the US House of Representatives sent in January.

Separately, an unnamed senior White House official launched a verbal attack against Huawei last week, branding it “the Mafia” and alleging it could keep tabs on the British Parliament and even blackmail MPs.

A Huawei spokesman instantly refuted the comment, dismissing it as “just crazy" and a “PR stunt", noting that likening Huawei to organised crime is “disingenuous".

The UK’s move earlier this year to partially allow Huawei (up to 35 percent) into its domestic market hit a raw nerve with the White House - even more so as it coincided with preliminary talks about Britain’s post-Brexit trade arrangements with Washington.

The US government has long accused Huawei, the world's second biggest smartphone maker and top 5G provider, of posing a security threat citing alleged “back doors” in its technologies that the Chinese authorities may purportedly cash in on. In May, Washington put the Chinese titan on a black list, barring US companies from dealing with Huawei, unless there is a specially issued licence to do so.

The "back door" argument - vehemently denied by Beijing and Huwei - has likewise been widely used to put off Washington's allies from doing business with Huawei: otherwise, the White House threatened to cut intelligence ties with them. Attorney General William Barr called on the US and its allies to put their "large market and financial muscle behind" either Ericsson or Nokia to help them turn into "far more formidable" competitors to Huawei.

Beijing and Huawei’s top management have flatly denied the charges numerous times, citing the company’s totally transparent schemes and welcoming the US to conduct its own checks into its networks.

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