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UK involvement in telecoms group reportedly conditional on doing what the US wants

Various groups involving advanced Western economies are thinking of trying to develop alternatives to Huawei technology, but the UK is only allowed to take part if it does what it’s told.

This is the essence of a report in the FT, which talks of the ‘five eyes’ intelligence sharing group, or even a new group called the ‘D10’, all getting together to develop telecoms kit. The FT says the D10 would consist of the G7 plus India, South Korea and Japan, but Japan is already in the G7, so that’s strange. But whatever the arbitrary trans-national club, the clear intention is for the US and its allies to be more proactive about weaning themselves off Huawei kit.

Apparently the UK has been floating the idea of a collaboration like this for a while, but then it went and disobeyed the US over Huawei’s involvement in the country’s 5G networks. Inevitable the Americans are now saying collaboration works both ways, and that if the UK was so keen on working together, it should have done the collaborative thing over Huawei.

“The UK has to show some skin, in terms of what it does and not just what it says it is going to do,” an unnamed US official told the FT. There is no mention of other US allies, such as France and Canada, that have yet to click their heels in obedience on the matter of Huawei, so the UK is apparently being punished for formally stating its position, rather then continuing to fudge it.

Leaving aside the diplomatic implications of all this, extending the remit of these organizations towards a collective industrial policy that seeks to incubate companies for strategic purposes is a questionable move. Not only are governments notoriously bad at picking winners and that sort of thing, but state intervention in private enterprise is exactly the sort of thing we criticize China for. Have we now officially entered the ‘if you can’t bet em, join em’ phase?

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