Britain on Tuesday bowed to US pressure and approved the phased removal of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from its 5G network despite warnings of retaliation from Beijing.
The policy reversal hands a major victory to US President Donald Trump’s administration in its geopolitical and trade battle with China.
But it threatens to further damage Britain’s relations with the Asian power and carry a big cost for UK mobile providers that have relied on Huawei equipment for nearly 20 years.
Digital minister Oliver Dowden’s announcement followed a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Boris Johnson of his cabinet and National Security Council.
“From the end of this year, telecoms providers must not buy any 5G equipment from Huawei,” Dowden told parliament.
He said the new guidelines also required all of Huawei’s existing 5G gear to be stripped out “by 2027”.
Huawei called the decision “disappointing” and motivated by politics.
“Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicised, this is about US trade policy and not security,” Huawei UK spokesman Ed Brewster said.
“This disappointing decision is bad news for anyone in the UK with a mobile phone.”
– US sanctions –
Johnson infuriated Trump and upset some members of his own Conservative party by allowing the Chinese leader in global 5G technology to help roll out Britain’s speedy new data network in January.
The UK was then completing its tortuous departure from the European Union and looking to establish strong ties with powerful Asian economies that could fulfil Johnson’s vision of a “Global Britain”.