Mike Rake, the former BT president and president of the CBI, has joined Huawei’s UK board of directors as a non-executive director after defending the Chinese company from political assault in recent weeks.
The British business veteran, who advised David Cameron when he was Prime Minister, has advised Huawei since January to have kept a close relationship with the Chinese company after working with the group during his time at BT.
The appointment of the telecommunications veteran comes against a backdrop of heightened tension over the British government’s decision to restrict the amount of Huawei equipment that can be used by British telecommunications companies building 5G and ultra-fast broadband networks.
Victor Zhang, Huawei vice president and chief of global government strategy, on Monday urged the government not to further restrict its role in the rollout of 5G in the UK.
The government resisted pressure from the United States to completely ban the use of Huawei equipment for national security reasons in January. But a rebellion by some conservative politicians over the issue has reopened debate over Huawei’s role in Britain’s critical national infrastructure.
Sir Mike, who has spent a decade as president of BT, warned last month that new restrictions on the use of Huawei could damage the UK in a post-Brexit landscape.
“Any attempt to further restrict Huawei 5G equipment or to remove existing 4G equipment will not only incur very large costs, but will damage trade relations with China and significantly hamper the government’s broadband ambitions. In turn, it will hurt our competitiveness as an economy at a critical time, “he said in an open letter.
Sir Mike said in a statement that his “passion” for providing affordable and reliable communication technologies was underscored by the Covid-19 crisis and motivated his decision to join Huawei. “At BT, I was able to see for myself how Huawei worked with major UK operators to roll out broadband, 3G and 4G,” he said.
BT’s decision to use Huawei as a supplier of its “next generation network” over the past decade has opened international markets for the Chinese company, which has become the world’s largest supplier of telecommunications equipment. The move preceded Sir Mike’s tenure at BT, but the company’s £ 12.5 billion acquisition of EE, the mobile operator, has strengthened relations with the Chinese supplier.
Huawei’s UK board of directors – which meets four times a year – is structured as a limited company. It was created in 2011 with John Browne, the former CEO of BP, who joined in 2015 as President to avoid the corporate governance issues surrounding Huawei’s relationship with the Chinese state .
The company will confirm on Tuesday that Sir Mike has joined the board of Huawei Technologies UK alongside other great British business leaders, including Lord Browne and Ken Olisa, the venture capitalist and former board member of the Directors’ Institute. Andrew Cahn, former head of UK Trade and Investment, is also a non-executive director of Huawei UK.