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Senators urge British Parliament to reject Huawei from 5G networks

Senators urge British Parliament to reject Huawei from 5G networks
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of senators led by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBipartisan governors call on Congress to pass coronavirus relief package Pelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms MORE (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday “strongly urged” the British Parliament to reject Chinese telecom group Huawei and exclude it entirely from their 5G networks.

The British House of Commons is set Wednesday morning to debate the decision by the United Kingdom’s National Security Council in January to allow Huawei equipment in “periphery networks” while banning the company’s equipment from more secure networks. 

In a letter sent to members of Parliament on Tuesday night, Schumer, Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him McConnell in tough position as House eyes earmark return Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism MORE (R-Neb.) and a bipartisan group of almost two dozen other senators underlined national security risks created through use of the company’s equipment, asking them to “revisit” their country’s decision on Huawei.

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“Given the significant security, privacy, and economic threats posed by Huawei, we strongly urge the United Kingdom to revisit its recent decision, take steps to mitigate the risks of Huawei, and work in close partnership with the U.S. on such efforts going forward,” the senators wrote.

Concerns around Huawei, a rare topic of bipartisan consensus on Capitol Hill, have mainly stemmed from a Chinese intelligence law that requires Chinese companies and citizens to participate in state intelligence work. 

The senators pointed to this issue in emphasizing their concerns around British use of Huawei equipment.

“Without an independent judiciary to review requests made by the government for data and other actions, there is no legal mechanism for these companies to appeal if they disagree with a request,” the senators warned. 

The Trump administration has made encouraging allied countries to move away from Huawei a top priority, with a senior White House administration official telling The Hill after the U.K.’s decision that they were “disappointed.” 

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Other top officials warned that the move could endanger intelligence sharing between the U.S. and the U.K., which are both part of the “Five Eyes” threat intelligence sharing alliance alongside Canada, New Zealand and Australia. 

The U.S. government has already taken several strong steps against Huawei, including adding the company to the Commerce Department’s “entity list,” effectively banning American companies from doing business with Huawei. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also voted unanimously in November to ban U.S. telecom groups from using its funds to purchase equipment from Huawei or other groups deemed national security threats. 

Huawei has consistently pushed back against charges brought against it and is suing the FCC.

The senators highlighted these moves against the company in their letters to the members of Parliament, but noted that “additional policy action must be taken” to fully secure networks. 

The senators asked the Parliament members to work with U.S. officials to create a strategy to fully remove Huawei equipment from networks, and to further policies to create domestic 5G companies. Huawei is the largest provider of 5G equipment worldwide. 

“We understand the challenges the U.K. faces regarding a lack of diverse, secure, and affordable suppliers,” the senators wrote. “These are challenges we also face here in the United States. However, the security and integrity of our telecommunications infrastructure cannot be compromised for convenience.”