Boris Johnson's New Press Chief 'Lobbied' Gov't Not to Stop Huawei From Developing UK's 5G Network

© AFP 2023 / DANIEL LEALA photograph shows the logo of Chinese company Huawei at their main UK offices in Reading, west of London, on January 28, 2020
A photograph shows the logo of Chinese company Huawei at their main UK offices in Reading, west of London, on January 28, 2020 - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.02.2022
In early 2020, the UK formally permitted Huawei to take part in the construction of Britain's 5G mobile communications, a move that was reversed in July 2020, following warnings from Washington.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's new communications director, Guto Harri, lobbied a former chief of staff in Downing Street not to ban the Chinese tech giant Huawei over spying concerns, leaked documents obtained by The Sun have revealed.
Harri was appointed Number 10's press chief on Monday following a cabinet reshuffle by Johnson, who is under pressure to resign after the release of senior civil servant Sue Gray's report on the "partygate" scandal pertaining to alleged lockdown-breaking parties held on Downing Street in 2020 and 2021.
The Sun reported that the incident regarding the Chinese tech giant occurred on 2 June 2020, when Harri met then-Number 10 Chief of Staff Eddie Lister and three top executives from Huawei.
According to the minutes cited by the newspaper, Harri, representing lobbying firm Hawthorn Advisors back then, used the 25-minute video call to ask which ministers to approach at a time when the British security service was reviewing the risk of allowing Huawei access to the UK's 5G telecommunications network.

He asked Lister if there were "any ministers we should talk to? Perhaps give a nudge in DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport] or Treasury?"

Lister reportedly suggested at the time that Prime Minister Johnson did not want to ban Huawei but he was "caught" between pressure from the Tory party and the US government.
The chief of staff ostensibly argued that "this PM is not anti-China and is not Donald Trump", adding that Johnson "believes in good relationships with China" and that "he is not coming from a negative place in any way".

"We are caught. We want the technology, we want it rolled out. There's an American concern and a parliamentary concern. There are a large number of MPs across the political divide who have a problem with China. Some are Atlanticists, some over COVID, some over Hong Kong, some over human rights", Lister purportedly noted.

A Downing Street spokesperson has, meanwhile, told The Sun that "in full compliance with appropriate guidance, government officials met with a number of interested parties, including Huawei, following the change in US policy".
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, for his part, joined Johnson's former aide Dominic Cummings in calling for an investigation into Harri's appointment.
"Given the issue of the threat to national security that Huawei poses, that lay behind why Huawei have been banned from our 5G system, it is important that there is clarity in these matters. Will Guto Harri now be subject to full security oversight including past involvements with Huawei?" Smith queried.

UK's About-Face on Huawei

In January 2020, Johnson's government greenlighted Huawei's participation in Britain's national 5G networks.
The decision, however, was reversed in July of that year, after Washington repeatedly warned London about "security threats" associated with the Chinese tech behemoth, which remains a leading producer and supplier of 5G equipment around the world.
Huawei has repeatedly dismissed any such claims and slammed the UK's move to revoke its earlier decision.
The US crackdown on the Chinese tech giant kicked off in May 2019, when the then-Trump administration blacklisted the firm over allegations that the company's hardware and software connections sent data to China's intelligence agencies, claims that were rejected by both Beijing and Huawei.
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