The British government on Tuesday U-turned on allowing Huawei a role in the building of the UK’s 5G network. From the end of this year, cell phone providers will be banned from buying Huawei kit and it’ll have to be removed altogether from their 5G networks by 2027.
The UK government’s line is that this change in position is a result of the new US sanctions on the company. But it is also part of the government’s broader strategy of trying to get the UK off the trajectory of ever-increasing dependence on China. Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong have illustrated the true nature of the regime while its attempts to bully Australia have highlighted how it is prepared to use economic links to punish countries that step out of line.
Another — and, perhaps, the most important — reason for the U-turn is that the government would have been defeated in the House of Commons if it had continued on its previous course. But even this U-turn might not be sufficient. Some of the more hard-line Tory rebels think that this timetable is too slow: it’ll be one UK general election and two US presidential elections before all Huawei kit is out of 5G in the UK. Some also think that the rules should apply to all Huawei products, not just 5G.
The most important thing the government must do now is work with other democratic states to build up other 5G providers. The original decision to go with Huawei was down to a lack of alternatives. That must now change.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.