The head of MI5 has said he has no reason to think Britain’s intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States will be damaged if the Chinese tech giant Huawei is given access to the UK’s 5G network.
The Government has come under intense pressure from the US administration not to allow Huawei a role in building 5G network amid fears that granting a Chinese firm access to the communications network could be a security risk.
However, in an interview with the Financial Times, MI5 director general Sir Andrew Parker expressed confidence that Britain’s intelligence gathering would not suffer if it did decide to go ahead.
Asked specifically, if he thought the UK would lose out on its intelligence relationships, he said: “I’ve no reason today to think that.”
Sir Andrew said the US-UK intelligence partnership was “very close and trusted”, adding: “It is, of course, of great importance to us. And, I dare say, to the US too, though that’s for them to say. It is a two-way street.”
His comments came as it was reported that a US delegation from National Security Agency and the National Economic Council was due in London on Monday in a last-ditch lobbying drive to persuade the British officials not to give Huawei a role.
Prior to the general election, Boris Johnson was reported to be moving towards a decision to allow the firm to provide “non-contentious” elements of the system, but a final decision was shelved until after polling day.
However at last month’s Nato leaders’ meeting in London, in the midst of the election campaign, the Prime Minister came under direct pressure from President Donald Trump who said Huawei was a “security danger”.
Mr Johnson responded by saying he would not do anything that would “prejudice our vital national security interests” or the UK’s ability to co-operate with other members of the Five Eyes security partnership, including the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Many Tory MPs have also expressed deep concern at the prospect that Huawei could be given a role.
But at the same time, ministers have come under pressure from the Chinese government which has warned of the commercial consequences if it is barred.