UK denies Trump influenced decision to ban China's Huawei from 5G networks

Key Points
  • "We all know Donald Trump, don't we?" said British Health Secretary Matt Hancock when asked about Trump's comments on the Huawei ban.
  • U.K. cellphone carriers will be forced to stop buying new 5G equipment from Huawei by the end of the year and to rip out all existing kit from the firm by 2027.
  • The U.S. president had claimed that he was the one who convinced countries such as Britain to block Huawei.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) welcomes US President Donald Trump (L) to the NATO summit at the Grove hotel in Watford, northeast of London on December 4, 2019.
Peter Nicholls | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump did not directly influence the U.K. government's decision to ban Huawei equipment from its 5G networks, a British minister said Wednesday.

"We all know Donald Trump, don't we?" Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News. "All sorts of people can try to claim credit for the decision but this was based on a technical assessment by the National Cyber Security Centre."

Hancock was responding to a question about Trump's comments on the policy change. The U.S. leader said Tuesday that he was the one who had convinced countries such as Britain to block Huawei.

"We convinced many countries, many countries, I did this myself for the most part, not to use Huawei, because we think it is an unsafe security risk, it's a big security risk," Trump said, according to Reuters.

Trump may not be able to take all the credit for the U.K. ditching Huawei from its rollout of super-fast 5G mobile networks. But it is his administration's introduction of new sanctions on the Chinese telecommunications firm that officials said ultimately led to a reversal in policy.

Huawei suffers 'huge blow' as UK moves to phase it out of its 5G network plans
Huawei suffers 'huge blow' as UK moves to phase it out of its 5G network plans

Huawei was allowed a restricted role in the U.K.'s 5G rollout in January. At the time, the government believed it could manage the risks associated with Huawei by excluding the firm from the sensitive "core" parts of its network infrastructure.

But the U.S. trade restrictions mean that Huawei can no longer source key chip components from trusted American suppliers. In the U.K.'s eyes, this would lead to security and reliability problems with Huawei, as it would have to find alternative chip suppliers.

The rule change from London means cellphone carriers will now be forced to stop procuring new 5G equipment from Huawei by the end of the year. They will also be required to rip out the Chinese firm's kit from their infrastructure by 2027.

UK-China relations

While the move was welcome news for the Trump administration — with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeting that it "advances Transatlantic security" — Chinese state-backed media has urged retaliation.

The Global Times wrote that Beijing should react, "otherwise wouldn't we be too easy to bully?" The newspaper said such retaliation should be "public and painful," though it didn't outline any specific actions.

Meanwhile, Chinese Ambassador to the U.K. Liu Xiaoming called the decision "disappointing and wrong."

"It has become questionable whether the U.K. can provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for companies from other countries," he tweeted.

It comes after tensions between Britain and China increased this month over new national security laws imposed in Hong Kong. London offered 3 million Hong Kong residents a path to British citizenship, a move that Liu said "constitutes gross interference in China's internal affairs."