LONDON • Britain will allow Huawei Technologies a restricted role in building parts of its 5G network, seeking a middle way in a bitter dispute between the United States and China over the next generation of communications technology.
Huawei, the world's biggest producer of telecommunications equipment, is under intense scrutiny after the US told allies not to use its technology because of fears it could be a vehicle for Chinese spying. Huawei has categorically denied this.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that Britain's National Security Council, chaired by Prime Minister Theresa May, has agreed to allow Huawei access to non-core parts of 5G mobile infrastructure like antennas, despite concerns among ministers.
The decision was made despite concerns raised over Mrs May's approach by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt.
Downing Street declined to comment, but Huawei welcomed the newspaper report.
"Huawei welcomes reports that the UK government is moving towards allowing Huawei to help build the UK's 5G network," it said in a statement.
"While we await a formal government announcement, we are pleased that the UK is continuing to take an evidence-based approach to its work and we will continue to work cooperatively with the government, and the industry," Huawei said.
The US has banned Huawei's 5G technology from its territory and urged allies in the so-called Five Eyes intelligence sharing collective - which includes Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand - to follow suit.
A security source told Reuters the United Kingdom would block Huawei from all core parts of the 5G network and access to non-core parts would be restricted. A second source confirmed that. Both spoke on condition of anonymity.
European nations are treading a fine line in the dispute between the world's two most powerful countries, under pressure from the US to take a hard line on Huawei but also anxious not to sour trading and diplomatic relations with China.
Britain's compromise could provide a template for others to follow that the anglophone Five Eyes alliance could live with.
However, some British lawmakers remained opposed.
"Allowing Huawei into the UK's 5G infrastructure would cause allies to doubt our ability to keep data secure and erode the trust essential to Five Eyes cooperation," British Parliament foreign affairs committee chairman Tom Tugendhat wrote on Twitter yesterday, referring to the security alliance of Western nations. "There's a reason others have said no," he added.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG