Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed telecoms security with US President Donald Trump as he prepares to announce if Britain will use China’s Huawei in its 5G networks, officials said Saturday.
In a phone call on Friday evening, the leaders “discussed a range of issues, including cooperation to ensure the security of our telecommunications networks”, a Downing Street spokeswoman said.
In London on Saturday, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Huawei’s involvement in next generation 5G mobile networks was a “complicated issue”.
“We are in active discussions with the UK government and others about Huawei,” he told the Chatham House think tank after talks with British Finance Minister Sajid Javid.
“Huawei is a complicated issue, what part of their network it goes into. I don’t want to get into the details, but there are active discussions.”
The United States has banned Huawei from the rollout of its 5G networks because of concerns — strongly denied — that the firm could be under the control of Beijing.
Washington has been lobbying London to do the same, but there is speculation that Johnson’s government will grant some kind of limited access, with a decision expected next week.
Huawei is already well established in British 3G and 4G networks, and officials have warned that banning it would be hugely costly and delay the rollout of 5G technology.
Intelligence agencies also believe that they can contain any potential risk, although Johnson and his top ministers will make the final decision.
At Chatham House, Mnuchin also repeated Washington’s desire to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain within a year.
London is hoping to open formal trade negotiations with the EU and US as soon as possible after leaving the bloc on January 31.
Mnuchin said some questions may have to be resolved with Brussels before they could be finalised with the US, but added: “I think a lot of the issues can be dealt with simultaneously.”
Johnson also discussed Brexit in his call with Trump, along with the “need to secure justice” for the family of Harry Dunn, Downing Street said.
The British teenager died in August when his motorbike was hit by a car being driven by Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a US diplomat.
British authorities have charged Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving, but the US refuses to extradite her.
Johnson “reiterated the need for the individual involved to return to the UK”, the spokeswoman said.