Johnson’s Brexit cabinet to take a hard line on Huawei, reveals US

London: The United States looks set to seal Britain's decision on whether or not Huawei equipment should be used in the 5G rollout with signs Boris Johnson's more hawkish cabinet will opt for a total ban in line with the US and Australia.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.Credit:Bloomberg

Donald Trump's top security advisor John Bolton eagerly backed the prospect of a No Deal Brexit which would free the UK to strike and implement trade deals as soon as it is able during his visit to London.

However, he suggested a collection of sector-by-sector deals would be agreed rather than an overall comprehensive deal but said Britain would be front of the queue for talks.

And in remarks made at the US Embassy at Battersea, Bolton said the US accepted Britain would not make its overdue decision on Huawei until after Brexit on 31 October.

Bolton said UK officials were looking "from square one on the Huawei issue" – a view confirmed by a government source who said national security was the paramount focus under the new administration.

"They were very concerned about not having any compromise in security of telecommunications in the 5G space,” Bolton said.

“What they said was ‘we would like to review this and be very sure about our decision and we too are concerned about the security of our 5G telecommunications network’.”

The Chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee Julian Lewis immediately backed Bolton's comments.

"Whilst we can coexist with Communist China, our US allies are rightly horrified at the prospect of a company under Chinese control further penetrating our critical infrastructure," Lewis told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

"Mr Bolton evidently detects a change of approach in Westminster: let us hope that this threat to Anglo-American intelligence cooperation, is at last beginning to recede."

Britain's Brexit-induced political paralysis has delayed the UK's decision on Huawei, frustrating telcos who have begun using Huawei equipment against government warnings that they were doing so at their own risk pending a final decision now left to the Johnson administration.

Since moving into Number 10, Johnson has set about ramping up preparations for a No Deal Brexit with a cabinet dominated by Brexit hardliners and a National Security Council comprised of more hawkish ministers than under Theresa May.

Further, Johnson's leadership was backed by Tory Brexiteers like the now-Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg who overwhelmingly support realigning British foreign and security policy with the Anglosphere with the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance at its core.

US national security advisor John Bolton.Credit:Bloomberg

May's National Security Council was split on the issue. The then-PM, a former Home Secretary, sided with her economic ministers to provisionally allow Huawei's partial involvement. Gavin Williamson lost his job as defence secretary over the leak but was restored to cabinet under Johnson, even if not to the national security portfolio.

But he joins a cabinet far more hawkish than May's.

Although none of Johnson's NSC ministers are on the record favouring a ban, their positions, beginning with Johnson himself, on Brexit and national security overwhelmingly suggest an alignment with the Australia and the US approach.

Other hawks include Trade Secretary Liz Truss, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

But the critical difference is the elevation of Sajid Javid from Home Secretary to Chancellor of the Exchequer. Javid voted in favour of a ban under May.

Javid replaces Philip Hammond who voted against a ban, removing at least one of the economic ministers who might be persuaded by their departments to back the technology because it is cheaper and reduces the possibility of a backlash from Beijing.

Bolton met Javid, Wallace and Truss on Tuesday.

Both Australia and the US have been lobbying the British to ban Huawei, saying it could spy on behalf of Beijing, per Chinese law, something Huawei insists it would defy if instructed.

Johnson, who is gearing for a No Deal Brexit on 31 October, is keen to quickly strike a series of free trade deals with Five Eyes allies the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

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