British Prime Minister Theresa May and her government have overlooked U.S. concerns over Chinese telecom giant Huawei and said the company can build some of its 5G data network.
The decision — made Tuesday by the U.K. National Security Council — will give limited access to the development of the U.K. network, according to The Financial Times.
It comes amid recent warnings from the United States that the company could use that development as an entry point and a backdoor to potentially spy for Beijing.
“If a country adopts this (Huawei) and puts it in some of their critical information systems, we won’t be able to share information with them, we won’t be able to work alongside them,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in February. “In some cases there’s risk — we won’t even be able to co-locate American resources, an American embassy, an American military outpost.”
Huawei officials have long denied the allegation that it works for the Chinese government, stating it operates like any other international company.
The biggest issue comes as the United Kingdom is part of the Five Eyes alliance with the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The alliance shares intelligence related to international affairs. Australia and New Zealand have already suggested they would block any moves by Huawei to assist with 5G development.
One reason for the U.K. allowing Huawei into its market is because officials claim any security risk could be mitigated.
“There’s a lot more to 5G security than just whether particular companies get particular contracts,” said Ciaran Martin, head of the National Cyber Security Center in Glasgow, as reported by The Associated Press. “There’s a whole framework of improvement we need to make.”
However, even within May’s cabinet, there is dissent.
Tom Tugendhat, chair of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee told the BBC that separating core and non-core — the latter of which Huawei would be assisting with — is difficult because of the “exponential increase” in speed and capability the new network entails.
He added, allowing the company into the U.K. would “cause allies to doubt our ability to keep data secure and erode the trust essential to Five Eyes cooperation.”
“This does mean that it is unwise to cooperate on an area of critical national infrastructure, like telecoms, with a state that can best be described as not always friendly,” he said.
German officials said earlier this month it had not seen enough evidence of U.S. claims and would not block Huawei from taking part in the auction to build that nation’s 5G network.
On Monday, Huawei reported its revenues jumped 39% year-over-year despite the pressure put on other countries to exclude the giant from 5G development.