Downing Street said Friday it was “very likely” that Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden would make a statement to Parliament on Tuesday after a technical review of the sanctions by the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC).
The U.S. ban prevents Huawei from using U.S. chips or chips designed with U.S. software. The NCSC should conclude that the Huawei kit will no longer be secure because it will have to rely on untested chips.
The Chinese company said it could divert 20,000 from its existing reserve for use in the UK, but did not know if it would be useful to do so. “We can help, but why should we bend over when we get high,” said an insider.
Any material concession to Huawei would enrage the rebel Tories. They want Dowden to ban the new Huawei kit from the end of this year and insist that the existing kit be torn off by 2023 or soon after. Leaks have suggested that the government would consider working around 2029.
“If Huawei thinks that any love deal that provides for the installation of an additional five years for its kit can go through parliament, they are greatly mistaken,” said a source close to the rebel group.
BT and Vodafone warned this week that Huawei’s withdrawal by 2023 could lead to power outages. They also said the cost to the two companies would reach several billion pounds and could be passed on to consumers. O2, the other big group of mobile phones, doesn’t use a lot of Huawei equipment.
Although the scope of the review is technical, the line has become increasingly geopolitical. This week, British President of Huawei Lord Browne, the former CEO of BP, said the company had “become football between the United States and China”.
Donald Trump’s White House has urged the UK to abandon Huawei, which has been supplying phone equipment to BT and Vodafone since the middle of the past decade and is the market leader in 5G.
Huawei says it is a private company independent from the Chinese state. British spy agencies said there were no hidden backdoors in his equipment, in part because they were able to monitor his software at a special assessment center in Banbury, Oxfordshire .
In January, Boris Johnson announced that Huawei would be capped at 35% of 5G and would only be allowed to provide non-essential parts of the network.
Dowden previously said he would delay the telecommunications bill until the end of the summer if he announced a policy change next week. This has prompted speculation that the government intends to postpone a vote on its plans until after the US elections in November. This claim was rejected by Downing Street.
Labor accused the government of agonizing the decision. Shadow Culture and Digital Secretary Jo Stevens said: “The Conservatives have been dithering for years, going from one exam to the next without any concrete action. In the meantime, they have failed to invest in local alternatives. “