GP Insights

GP Insights # 33, 5 May 2019

The Huawei Controversy in the UK
Harini Madhusudhan

What happened?

In the last week of April, news leaked that the UK would ignore the warnings of the US and go ahead with deploying Huawei equipment within its 5G network. This could be seen as a choice to favour national economics over security. But supporters of the UK’s move argue that Huawei has been excluded from the core parts of the UK network and has not secured a full ‘green light’ to operate. China responded to US’ claims and warned the UK to not discriminate and resist pressures from ‘other’ countries.

After this, Gavin Williamson, the defence minister was fired by Theresa May on 1 May 2019, for the newspaper report that said Britain would allow Huawei equipment to be used in 5G mobile data network.

What is the background?

Williamson was once in charge of party discipline for May's Conservatives and was an important ally for the prime minister as she struggled to steer Britain through Brexit without a majority in parliament or consensus on how to leave the European Union.

May defended her decision to sack him following a brief investigation by the government's most senior civil servant, Mark Sedwill, who is also the NSC's secretary. "The importance of this was not about the information that was leaked, it was where it was leaked from. This was about the NSC and trust in the NSC," she is said to have told Sky News on 4 May 2019, before the police said there was no criminal case to answer.

What does it mean?

This case can have three implications. Firstly, the UK could become the centre of the technological cold war between China and the US. Second, Britain’s position on its need to retain trade partners, like China.

And the most interesting one, (something that happened with Trump as well,) was the problems that emerge from trusted Defence Ministers- does it imply anything?

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