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Digital Secretary: Change in US president unlikely to see Huawei sanctions eased

Oliver Dowden was called to MPs to explain how the Government intends to make the UK’s 5G more diverse.

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Oliver Dowden was called to MPs to explain how the Government intends to make the UK’s 5G more diverse (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Oliver Dowden was called to MPs to explain how the Government intends to make the UK’s 5G more diverse (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Oliver Dowden was called to MPs to explain how the Government intends to make the UK’s 5G more diverse (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

A change in US president is unlikely to see sanctions against Huawei eased, the Digital Secretary has said.

Oliver Dowden cast doubt on suggestions that the UK ban could be lifted if Donald Trump loses his bid to be re-elected in November, saying that he believes the US stance would remain the same regardless.

Last week, the UK decided to ban the Chinese firm from having a role in the country’s 5G network, owing to tougher US sanctions restricting Huawei’s ability to build chips.

The company was initially allowed a limited role within the non-core parts of the network capped at 35%, but security concerns brought on by the US move forced the Government to perform a major U-turn.

“We could continue to keep it under review but that is a somewhat unlikely scenario given that there is pretty much bipartisan consensus on that so I have no reason to believe that a change in the US presidency would change that position,” Mr Dowden told the Science and Technology Committee.

“If anything what we have seen over previous months and years is that there has been a tightening, there has been no evidence that there is going to be any loosening of those sanctions.”

British telecoms firms have been told to remove Huawei equipment from the 5G network by 2027 and stop purchasing new 5G equipment from Huawei by the end of the year.

The changes are expected to cost billions and delaying the deployment of 5G by up to three years.

Ministers are in talks with Samsung and NEC about plugging the eventual gap that will be left by Huawei in a bid to make the network as diverse as possible.

Mr Dowden told MPs that he is looking at ways of “turbo-charging” the process of diversification by creating a taskforce led by a senior person from the telecommunications sector.

PA