British health secretary Matt Hancock appeared to have no time for Donald Trump’s boasts this morning when asked about the President taking credit for the U-turn on the use of Huawei technology in our 5G network. Asked on Sky News whether he believed that the decision to scrap Huawei’s involvement was down to Trump, Hancock replied that: ‘we all know Donald Trump don’t we… people can claim credit’.
Hancock instead insisted that it was a ‘technical decision’ based on NCSC advice ‘to make sure that we have the highest quality 5G systems over the coming years’. He then referred viewers to the statement made by culture minister Oliver Dowden announcing the decision on Tuesday.
Cockburn wonders though if Hancock was really paying enough attention to his colleague in the Commons. On Tuesday, Dowden made clear in his announcement that the UK position had changed because of US sanctions on the telecommunication company, which barred it from using US technology — meaning the company would have to rely on riskier third-party vendors. Dowden explained that as a result:
‘The National Cyber Security Centre has reviewed the consequences of the US actions and has now reported to Ministers that it has significantly changed its security assessment of Huawei’s presence in the UK’s 5G network.’
In other words, Donald Trump’s assessment isn’t far off.
Hancock could be opening a can of worms for the government. In December, Huawei launched a legal challenge against the US, after it classified the company as a national security threat and banned the use of its equipment. To avoid a similar challenge, Britain will have received legal advice justifying the decision to bar the company from the 5G network, based on the technical recommendations of the NCSC. If Hancock continues to downplay the role of the US, it could well be argued that the decision was made for political expediency, rather than genuine technical concerns.
Hancock may have enjoyed the dig at Donald Trump, but this one might come back to bite him…
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.