Politics

Brexit news LIVE: Boris Johnson’s deal set to be voted through European Parliament as he faces US clash over Huawei



Boris Johnson‘s Brexit deal is set to be sealed by the European Parliament today with MEPs expected to overwhelmingly vote in favour of it. 

Meeting in Brussels, they are set to vote for the ratification of the plan, after the Withdrawal Agreement Bill was passed by Parliament and signed by EU chiefs. 

Elsewhere today, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is due to arrive in England where he will meet with the PM and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, amid fallout from the government’s decision to allow Huawei involvement in the UK’s 5G network. 


The Trump administration long warned of negative consequences over allowing the Chinese tech giant to work on the infrastructure – with intelligence sharing potentially at threat. 

Follow our live updates below…

Live Updates



Huawei backlash 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is flying into Britain amid a row over the Trump administration’s concern at Boris Johnson’s decision to allow Chinese tech giant Huawei to have a role in the UK’s 5G network.

On Tuesday, the National Security Council agreed to give the green light for the firm to play a limited part in building the network, despite repeated appeals by the US not do so.

The US has warned it would suspend intelligence-sharing with any ally that allows the Chinese firm into its 5G networks amid fears security could be compromised.

Following the announcement, Mr Johnson spoke to the president by telephone to explain the decision in an attempt to allay US fears.

READ  Emily Thornberry denies 'sneering' at Brexit voters
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Photo by AP Photo/Cliff Owen.

 


European Parliament to vote in Brexit 

The European Parliament is set to pave the way for Britain’s departure from the EU in a final vote on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

MEPs meeting in Brussels are expected to overwhelmingly back the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, meaning the UK will leave with a deal on Friday.


International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said a trade deal with the US was a “separate issue” to the security concerns surrounding Huawei’s involvement in Britain’s 5G network.

“On the subject of trade, that is a separate issue which we will be negotiating independently and I am convinced that we will continue to progress those discussions,” the Cabinet minister told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

“The fact is we trade and the US trade with companies around the world.

“We may not agree with everything those countries do but trade is a very important relationship, it is a very important part of our economy.”

On the Prime Minister’s decision to ignore US warnings over Huawei, Ms Truss said: “We cannot be in a position where, as an independent sovereign nation, we are outsourcing decisions to any other country in the world.

“We have to make these decision for ourselves.”


PM Boris Johnson has spoken to US President Donald Trump to update him on the Government’s decision on Huawei, Downing Street said.

A No 10 spokesman said:

“The Prime Minister underlined the importance of like-minded countries working together to diversify the market and break the dominance of a small number of companies.

“The leaders also discussed the United States’ proposal for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which could prove a positive step forwards.”


Tory Richard Drax (South Dorset) said:

“Bearing in mind we’re under constant cyber attack by China, I’m baffled by its decision today and particularly with 5G.”

He added:

“If the Government gives access to the periphery it will get to the core, that is what we are hearing. Surely that is a major threat to our security?”

Tory Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) said he accepted the sense of the Government’s position, adding:

“However, in terms of drafting a contract with Huawei, would it not make sense, as far as the British public are concerned, that if there was to be a breach of national security, then it should be Huawei who pays for the replacement not the British public?”

Tory Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) said:

“He must recognise there are considerable fears about this decision. In order to allay those, will he run a Government information campaign to deal with the technical issues?”


Downing St said the decision on Huawei would enable the UK to “seize the opportunities” offered by new technology while protecting national security.

“The Prime Minister wants UK consumers and businesses to benefit from world-class connectivity. This would never be at the expense of our national security,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“The decision we have taken will protect our security interests while ensuring we can seize the opportunities from 21st century technology.”

Ministers believe that rolling out 5G across the country is crucial to improving economic performance and addressing the UK’s “productivity gap”.


Labour former security minister and Navy chief Lord West of Spithead said:

“The Americans make a lot of complaints about risks to intelligence… I don’t believe there will be a risk to intelligence unless they say they are not giving information.”

He found the position of the US “extraordinary” given the mass leaking of sensitive UK intelligence details by the fugitive former CIA contractor Edward Snowden.

Lord West said it was “inconceivable” that British spy chiefs “would ever give advice that would actually put our intelligence at risk, bearing in mind that has been their bread and butter their whole lives”.

Lady Morgan said:

“I think he is absolutely right to say that if they felt there was different advice that should have been given, it would have been given.”


Tory Sir Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) called for a review to learn lessons from this situation.

He said:

“I can’t say I welcome this decision, but I understand it. But what harsh and honest lessons will the UK Government take from finding itself confronted with this dilemma…?

“Doesn’t it represent a massive strategic national failure and indeed a failure of Western strategy that the Five Eyes have been left in this position?”

Tory Steve Brine (Winchester) said:

“The logic of what the Foreign Secretary is saying, he talked in his statement about limited choices, is that if he could make this decision around roll out without Huawei, that’s exactly what he would he do.”

He spoke of the “domestic market failure”, asking: “

Is it possible for us then to ease out this high-risk vendor or are we then in too deep and it’s only for the future that he’s addressing that failure?”

Tory Simon Jupp (East Devon) asked:

“Can the Secretary of State confirm that any decision to ban Huawei outright would result in a possible trade retaliation from China?”

Mr Raab replied:

“There would be that risk… but that is not the basis on which this decision has been made.”


Former national security adviser Lord Ricketts agreed there was “no risk-free solution” and welcomed the decision by the National Security Council.

The independent crossbencher said:

“I am sure ministers were delighted to have the barrage of no doubt well-intentioned advice from across the Atlantic.

“But given many American commentators seem to see the slightest role for Huawei in our system as an existential threat, isn’t it quite extraordinary that the US don’t have their own 5G technology solution to offer to Western allies.

“Perhaps one of the lessons of this is there has been a market failure and before we get to 6G the West ought to be much more co-ordinated in its approach so we do have an entirely reliable basis in technology to go forward.

“In the meantime, this seems to me to be the right risk-managed solution for a diversified network, in the circumstances we find ourselves in.”


Labour peer Lord Reid of Cardowan, who served as both defence and home secretary under Tony Blair, asked why the decision had pre-empted the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

He said:

“This isn’t just a technical issue. This is a critical national infrastructure, which touches upon defence, security and many aspects of our foreign policy and foreign relations.

“The appropriate place to take this decision was during the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

“I hope that we haven’t added to the market failure by political failure.”

He added:

“I hope I am wrong but the idea that we can isolate one part of this system… appears to me to be extremely optimistic.”

Lady Morgan said:

“This is a decision about the telecom supply chain in this country, where the roll-out of speedier connectivity is already happening and where we are not able at the moment to limit the use of high-risk vendors in those networks by providers.”


Baroness Morgan gave Conservative peer Lord Cormack the assurance that the matter “will be kept under constant review”.

She added:

“We want to get to the stage where there is no need for any high-risk vendors in our system, but clearly we are some way off that which is why the NSC has taken the decision it has taken today.”

Labour’s Lord Young of Norwood Green said:

“I welcome the report because I believe it is evidence based and it has a comprehensive strategy for reviewing and endeavouring to control. I don’t think we should underestimate the importance of the 5G network to the future of the UK in terms of the fourth Industrial Revolution and to connectivity.”

Conservative peer Lord Sterling of Plaistow asked “what was the rush” into making the decision.

He said:

“We haven’t yet decided our long-term policy, we haven’t had our discussions on security. Could Baroness Morgan be so kind as to say to me, supposing we had said we’d make a decision by June or December, what would have been the huge disadvantage to wait that time?”

Lady Morgan replied:

“I don’t think this was a decision that the NSC could have put off for much longer giving the ongoing speed in which 5G is being rolled out in this country.”


Tory backbencher Richard Graham (Gloucester) said he welcomed the statement because it “balances the advantages of world-class telecoms technology with the need to manage complex challenges from high-risk vendors.

“And I think the Government’s acceptance of the restrictions and regulations proposed by the National Cyber Security Centre should give us all confidence.”

Former international trade secretary Liam Fox asked if anxieties in Washington were “primarily around Britain’s ability to mitigate the risk of Huawei involvement in 5G or is it about sending a green light to other countries who will not have the same capabilities as the United Kingdom?”

Mr Raab replied:

“We are starting in a different position from the US which does not have Huawei in its existing networks and can use different suppliers.”

He added:

“During the decision-making process we did ask the US on a number of occasions if they had an alternative to the use of Huawei which would work in the UK and neither from our conversations in Silicon Valley or anywhere else was there a solution that would work in the UK.”


Former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt said “this country must never find itself in this position again”.

She added:

“I understand the restrictions of high-risk vendors to non-core, but would my right honourable friend agree that excluding high-risk vendors from any provisions is one way we can encourage companies and states that do operate under international norms and business standards, that is why this decision is regrettable?”

Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith criticised Mr Raab for not mentioning China “as being a threat to us in cyber-security” during his statement.

He added:

“Does he now believe that China is a threat to us in cyber-security and will he guarantee that he takes on those threats to us, does he think he will now drive Huawei out of our future systems progressively as quickly as he can?”

Mr Raab replied:

“I think the Government and the various statements that have been made in relation to the security risk have consistently called out China for cyber attacks.”


Senator and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney tweets…

 


Shadow solicitor general, and shadow minister (Home Office) (Security) Nick Thomas-Symonds said there had been “far too long a period of dither and delay”.

He said:

“As the Intelligence and Security Committee made clear in July of last year, this debate has been unnecessarily protracted and damaging. A decision was required urgently so that everyone concerned can move forward. Our telecoms sector, businesses and households need that clarity and certainty to move forward. Leaks, rumour and confusion on this simply can’t continue.”

He added:

“Guarantees about the safety and security of the network going forward are now absolutely crucial if Huawei is to be involved in building the 5G network.

“It is for ministers to make decisions in our national interest now and going forward and never to be held hostage by shifting transatlantic geopolitics. A rush by the Government to throw itself into the arms of President Trump to secure a trade deal must not govern everything that it does.”

Mr Raab replied:

“I think it was absolutely right on such a sensitive decision with such a whole range of complex considerations from the commercial and the infrastructure and the security to take the time to get it right.”


Conservative Julian Lewis, who chaired the Defence Committee in the last parliament, said Huawei is “intimately linked with the Chinese Communist state and its deeply hostile intelligence agencies” as he sought assurances over the required safeguards.

SNP culture spokesman John Nicolson said:

“The Prime Minister has gone for the cheapest, least secure option.

“But it doesn’t take a genius to work out why Huawei is so competitive in cost – it’s the Chinese Communist Party branded as a company, and the Conservative Government has chosen low cost over security.”

Labour’s Kevan Jones, a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament in the last parliament, said:

“There’s nothing that I’ve seen which means this decision will compromise our Five Eyes relationship or that the potential risk in terms of including Huawei in the 5G network cannot be mitigated.”


In the Lords, the opposition welcomed the restriction on Huawei’s role in the network’s periphery but said questions remained to be answered by the Government.

Labour spokesman Lord Griffiths of Burry Port called for early comprehensive legislation in an area where technological developments happened quickly, warning against getting “behind the curve”.

He said the limit to 35% of the kit was welcome but asked if this would be reduced over time to “wean operators off the Chinese provider”.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Campbell of Pittenweem said he did not share the Government’s enthusiasm for the compromises which had been made.

“Any question of us being at odds with the US and other members of the Five Eyes is something we shouldn’t contemplate with anything other than great concern,” he told peers.

Lord Campbell warned that any failure of the US to share intelligence as a consequence of the PM’s decision may have “considerable implications for the safety and interests of this country”.


Conservative former cabinet minister David Davis said there should be a ban on Huawei involvement in UK networks.

He said:

“Yes, I do think Huawei should be banned from our networks. It was founded by a member of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army), even if it were not an arm of the Chinese government, the 2017 law requires it to take instruction from the Chinese intelligence agency, and in the future the size and complexity of the problem we’re trying to protect against is enormous.

“Even Huawei alone, forget the rest of China, has tens of thousands of researchers working on this so I’m afraid the only way to protect our safety is to ban them.”

Mr Raab said he disagreed with Mr Davis, saying the Government and analysis “does not back up the suggestion that an outright ban would either be a targeted way of dealing with the legitimate security concerns that right across this House we share and want to address, nor has (Mr Davis) or anyone else who has called for an outright ban addressed the wider cost, delays and impact it’d have on both the telecoms sector and, in particular, the roll-out of 5G”.


Tory former prime minister Theresa May said:

“I commend the Government for taking a decision which protects our national security, but also recognises the interests of our economy.

“That is right for the UK because it recognises the construction of our networks and our capabilities and gives us the toughest regime in the world.

“(He) has already referenced the fact that we never have had and never will have high-risk vendors in our most sensitive networks and that this decision has no effect on our ability to share intelligence with our allies.

“But (he) also referenced the current market failure, he set out the steps the UK Government will take to rectify this.

“Will he agree with me that is essential that our Five Eyes partners, all our Five Eyes allies are willing to work with us and other like-minded countries to ensure the very market diversification that is in all our interests in the long term.”

Mr Raab replied:

“Not only do we seek to continue to work with the Five Eyes on intelligence and indeed want to strengthen that relationship as we depart from the EU, but also in relation to dealing with the shortfall and the need to improve diversity of supply in the telecoms network, co-operation, or to expand in that area too.”


Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the Government’s decision to use Huawei technology in its 5G network does not affect the UK’s ability to share “highly sensitive intelligence data” with Five Eyes security partners.

In a statement to MPs, Mr Raab said:

“I want to be absolutely clear that nothing in this review affects this country’s ability to share highly sensitive intelligence data over highly secure networks both within the UK and with our partners including the Five Eyes.”

Mr Raab added:

“GCHQ has categorically confirmed that how we construct our 5G and full-fibre public networka has nothing to do with how we share classified data.

“And the UK’s technical security experts have agreed that new controls on high-risk vendors are completely consistent with the UK’s security needs.”

Mr Raab said risks “cannot be eliminated” but a new regulatory system would mitigate them.

He said:

“I hope the whole House will agree that if we are to achieve our digital connectivity ambitions it is absolutely imperative that we can trust in the safety and the security of our telecoms networks.

“Risks can’t be eliminated in telecoms, but it is the job of Government, Ofcom and industry to work together to ensure we reduce our vulnerabilities and mitigate those risks.”



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