We should have banned Huawei years ago

It is a foregone conclusion. Later today, Boris Johnson will hold a meeting of his National Security Council, after which the Government will confirm that Huawei will be banned from Britain’s 5G networks.

It was only six months ago that a 35pc cap, rather than an outright ban, was mandated for the Chinese company’s equipment. The company would also be locked out of the “core” parts of 5G networks, but since then the clamour for a blanket ban has grown louder.

As tensions between the West and China have increased, both the White House and Conservative backbenchers have become more opposed to Huawei’s position in any future network.

The likely result of today’s meeting is that BT and others will be forced to strip out Huawei gear from next year, and finish the job in the middle of the decade.

Whether or not you agree that Huawei is an arm of the Chinese state (the company, naturally, denies this), it has been doomed in Britain for some time. The UK stood effectively alone in the Five Eyes security alliance in using the company, and US pressure would only increase as the countries work towards a trade deal.

What will frustrate the telecoms companies is the apparent flip-flopping. BT has warned of mobile blackouts if it is forced to move too quickly.

On top of that it will cost an estimated (albeit disputed) £2bn to remove Huawei from the forthcoming 5G networks.

That is because ministers first kicked the Huawei-shaped can down the road, and then came to the 35pc cap as a compromise – an apparent green light for BT et al, leading them to start fitting their networks with new Huawei gear that will now be ripped out.

It would have been better for all involved to ban Huawei years ago. With hindsight, we should ask why that didn’t happen.

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