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Politicians start parading after Huawei’s £3bn UK announcement

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MPs across the UK have started cracking the whip in the press room as each ego proclaims its own importance in securing £3 billion in procurement from Huawei over the next five years.

The announcement comes after Prime Minister Theresa May’s trip to China where Huawei Chairperson Sun Yafang committed at least £3 billion in procurement spend in the UK over the next five years. While such announcements are generally viewed as flimsy promises, the pair also announced Huawei had spent £2 billion over 2012-2017, which exceeded the £1.3 billion commitment made five years ago. Huawei came good on that promise so there is no evidence to say it won’t do it again.

What is interesting is this announcement only focuses on procurement spend over the next five years. Huawei told Telecoms.com this morning to keep an eye out for announcements over the next couple of months, as there will be a few more cheques written focusing on the investment side of the business. Details are commercially sensitive for the moment, but Huawei has been focusing on intelligent network solutions for its carrier business and AI on the consumer side of things. It would be a safe bet.

“Huawei values long-term partnership,” said Yafang. “The UK was one of the first international markets we entered, when we opened our first office there in 2001. We have now been working with our major customers in the UK for more than twelve years, helping to build a better connected UK. Over the coming years we look forward to continuing to collaborate with our customers and partners to help keep the UK at the very forefront of the digital age.”

Right now Huawei has three R&D centres across the UK, one in Cambridge which is focused on chip solutions and another two joint innovation centres with BT and Vodafone. The last couple of years has certainly seen Huawei increase its footprint within the UK, though the team is keeping tight-lipped on what the money will actually be spent on. This is not unusual, it is commercially sensitive after all, but it is a win for certain MPs.

“Huawei’s £3 billion announcement is yet another significant vote of confidence in our world-leading tech industry and I’m delighted to welcome their increased commitment to the UK,” said International Trade Secretary of the UK, Liam Fox. “With 90% of global growth forecast to come from outside the EU, my international economic department is working to ensure Britain continues to benefit from the vast opportunities available as we leave the EU.”

We can just imagine the headlines over the next couple of days as pro-Brexit politicians point to this investment as a promise that the expensive divorce won’t be that bad for the British people. Let’s not forget however that leaving the EU is going to have little impact on the technology world, or at least nowhere near the same impact as the more traditional industries.

The older the industry, the more genuine the threat is from the divorce as they are more tightly regulated. Aside from data protection and residency regulations which are being drafted at the moment, the technology industry operates in relative freedom; globalization of the supply chain was something which the industry was born into not forced upon it. Some countries might be trying to impose localized regulations to protect certain domestic industries, such as agriculture or automotive, but this is not as prominent in the tech space.

Don’t read too much into the MPs posturing as you’ll probably have to swallow numerous PR quips over the next couple of days. Might also be worth keeping an eye out at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as there will probably be a self-indulgent statement before too long, while Minister for Fun Secretary for State Matt Hancock will most likely find a party to celebrate at this evening.

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