Britain’s sovereignty is at risk if the country allows Chinese tech giant Huawei to help build its 5G infrastructure, the US secretary of state has warned.
Mike Pompeo described the decision facing the National Security Council as “momentous” in a last ditch plea to ministers who are expected to make the call on Tuesday.
The US administration has previously warned allies not to allow Huawei to form part of their 5G networks, claiming it would be a security risk, something the company vehemently denies.
But Mr Pompeo wrote on Twitter on Sunday night: “The UK has a momentous decision ahead on 5G.
“British MP Tom Tugendhat gets it right: ‘The truth is that only nations able to protect their data will be sovereign’.
He retweeted a comment by Mr Tugendhat, the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in the last parliament, in which the MP said: “Sovereignty means control of data as much as land.
“We need to decide what we’re willing to invest in and who were willing to share our tech with.
“The real costs will come later if we get this wrong and allow Huawei to run 5G.”
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said the calculation would be taken in terms of the UK’s national interest.
“The decision we make will be based upon our own sovereign right to choose. It’s Britain that will have to live with the consequences of that,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour following Mr Pompeo’s intervention.
“There are risks but we will make an informed decision based on the evidence and we will do so in an autonomous way.”
And the UK’s former national security adviser Peter Ricketts, a crossbench peer, said the risk is being blown out of proportion.
“I’m quite sure, knowing the intelligence community well, that they won’t be recommending to ministers, the course of action that is likely to mess up our intelligence relationship with the US or prejudice UK security.
“I personally think we can find a solution which does allow them to have some role and which doesn’t send the Americans off the other side of the diving board.”
Mr Pompeo is due to meet Boris Johnson and the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on a visit to London this week.