A group of senior Conservatives has written to Tory MPs expressing concerns over the Government’s controversial move to allow Chinese tech giant Huawei a role in the UK’s 5G network.
Ex-Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who is among four former Cabinet ministers involved in the letter, said there was cross-party concern on the issue.
It comes as US Vice President Mike Pence indicated the decision by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to allow Huawei a limited role in 5G roll-out could jeopardise a post-Brexit trade deal between Britain and America.
The letter from, among others, Sir Iain, Owen Paterson, David Davis and Damian Green states some MPs were “working to find a better solution” to the 5G issue.
The senior Tories want “high-risk” vendors to be ruled out immediately, or phased out over time.
Sir Iain told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There is real concern across the floor of the House. I think there is a lot of disquiet over this.”
He added: “The truth is if they are not a trusted vendor, if, as the Foreign Secretary said at the despatch box, that China is considered to be an aggressor in these matters, they are constantly attacking our systems alongside Russia – they claim that Russia is an aggressor, but they won’t have anything to do with Russian technology – then surely the same principle must apply to China.
“And, I think, therefore, we need to get the Government to look to get the involvement of Huawei, not to 35%, but to zero.
“We are turning out to be the mugs in this game.”
The Government has said Huawei would be limited to involvement in 35% of the network and kept away from sensitive areas.
Pressed on whether the Huawei decision could be a deal-breaker in Brexit trade talks, Mr Pence told CNBC: “We’ll see. We’ll see if it is.”
Referring to the UK move to allow Huawei limited participation in the 5G rollout, Mr Pence said: “We are profoundly disappointed because, look, when I went at the president’s direction in September I met with Prime Minister Johnson and I told him the moment the UK is out of Brexit we were willing to begin to negotiate a free trade arrangement with the UK.
“But we just don’t believe that utilising the assets, the technology of Huawei is consistent with the security or privacy interests of the UK, of the United States, and it remains a real issue between our two countries.”
The remarks came after it was reported that US President Donald Trump blasted the Prime Minister with “apoplectic” rage during a heated phone call regarding the 5G move.