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Time for Beijing to rethink trade ties with London

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Not so long ago, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was facing a major Tory backlash aimed at expelling Huawei from the UK’s 5G market, only to see that the push from “concerned” members of the Conservative Party has now brought about the intended result.

At one point, it seemed that Britain (pre-Brexit shambles) was eager to work with and allow the pioneering Chinese tech giant to build parts of the country’s fifth-generation mobile network infrastructure on its soil, it took only a minority of Tory rebels to change Johnson’s position on the issue.

Empowered by US President Donald Trump (who was said to be “apoplectic” over Johnson’s ambitious plans), Iain Duncan Smith, David Davis, Damian Green and Owen Paterson among others successfully tabled an amendment to the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill that orders the government to set a deadline of December 31, 2022, to end Huawei’s involvement, and prevents mobile-phone operators from using equipment from other suppliers deemed “high risk” by the National Cyber Security Centre.

To recall Smith’s words, “Given that so many nations are saying no to Huawei, this should be an opportunity for us to prioritize national security over the breakneck speed with which the deployment of 5G is being pressed on us.”

It is also worth noting that he compared Johnson’s former decision to allowing Nazi companies to develop British radar systems, an analogy that is extremely worrying in the context of the 75th anniversary of the victory over the Third Reich.

Supporting Smith’s rhetoric, Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative chairman of the House
of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, went on to say, “I think it’s a shared realization
of what it means for dependence on a business that is part of a state that does not share
our values.”

William Hague, a former foreign minister who now sits in the House of Lords, also made clear his view that Britain can’t be dependent on China as they “don’t play by our rules.”

What is interesting about the rebel Tories’ move is that it coincided with Washington’s review into the US security relationship with Britain after Johnson initially allowed Huawei to contribute to the development of Britain’s 5G network infrastructure.

The Telegraph reports how the US threatened to pull its RC-135 aircraft from their base in Suffolk and the withdrawal of active spies (because of concerns that their mobile phones and other devices could be comprised), which would seriously impact the “special relationship” between the US and UK.

“As the US and China compete and decouple, allies and businesses will be pressed to choose which they want to work with,” Neil O’Brien, a member of Parliament (MP) and the China Research Group’s secretary, told Business Insider at that time.

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