A decision to use Huawei in building the UK’s new 5G mobile network would not end the country’s intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States, the outgoing head of British security service MI5 said.
Andrew Parker’s comments came as the US embarked on a late lobbying operation to try to persuade the UK government not to use the Chinese telecoms giant because of security concerns.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks about the role that Huawei could play following heavy pressure from US President Donald Trump on its allies to boycott the company.
One US senator has introduced a bill that would prevent the US from sharing intelligence with countries that allow Huawei to operate 5G technology.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the Sunday Times that Mr Trump and his advisers had threatened to cut off some intelligence to the UK if it choses Huawei.
Asked if the UK would lose US intelligence if the government contracted Huawei, Mr Parker told the FT: “I’ve no reason today to think that.”
“Perhaps the thing that needs more focus and more discussion is how do we get to a future where there’s a wider range of competition and a wider range of sovereign choices than defaulting to a yes or no about Chinese technology,” he told the newspaper.
The decision on any role that Huawei might play in building the next generation of communications technology has proved to be a headache for the UK government for months.
Former defence secretary Gavin Williamson was fired in April last year after he was found to have leaked information from a high-level security meeting suggesting that Huawei would be allowed to help build the network.
The US delegation will arrive on Monday to put pressure on the UK after warning that the equipment could be used for Chinese state spying. The industry has warned that banning the company would cost billions of dollars.
Huawei has repeatedly denied that its equipment could be using for spying and is already working with UK mobile phone operators for non-essential parts of operations.