Needless new telecoms law confirms UK Huawei decision was political

The UK government is proposing a new law that will fine telcos for not doing what they’re already compelled to do.

The Telecommunications (Security) Bill (why the brackets?) is designed ‘to give the government unprecedented new powers to boost the security standards of the UK’s telecoms networks and remove the threat of high risk vendors.’ As the UK government mulls whether to allow its citizens to celebrate Christmas, the one thing we definitely need is for it to have unprecedented new powers. After all, it’s done such a great job with the ones it already has.

In fact, this year has shown how superfluous actual laws are, with centuries-old civil liberties trampled on with negligible due process in the name of keeping us safe. Aside from placing the country into a perpetual state of house arrest, the UK government has twice moved to unilaterally restrict and then ban Huawei from the country’s 5G networks. Now it seems to have decided it fancies a law to retroactively legitimise those decisions.

To be fair, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden did anticipate this move when he announced the ban. “By the time of the next election we will have implemented in law an irreversible path for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G networks,” he said. Why they didn’t propose the law at the time, therefore, is a mystery, as is the subsequent haste to push it through now, when the Tories still have years to fulfil that promise.

“This groundbreaking bill will give the UK one of the toughest telecoms security regimes in the world and allow us to take the action necessary to protect our networks,” said Dowden, upon unveiling the proposed law. But surely we’re already allowed to take whatever action we deem necessary, otherwise what was the summer ruling all about?

“The Bill will also provide the government with new national security powers to issue directions to public telecoms providers in order to manage the risk of high risk vendors,” says the press release. “While they are already banned from the most sensitive ‘core’ parts of the network, the Bill will allow the Government to impose controls on telecoms providers’ use of goods, services or facilities supplied by high risk vendors.”

That statement is totally disingenuous. The summer ban covered all parts of the network, as Dowden said himself at the time. “No new kit is to be added from January 2021, and UK 5G networks will be Huawei free by the end of 2027.” The release goes on to concede that point, and thus contradict itself, confirming that this bill is merely a rubber-stamping of actions already taken. There’s nothing new here, nor in Huawei’s response.

“It’s disappointing that the government is looking to exclude Huawei from the 5G roll out,” said Huawei VP Victor Zhang. “This decision is politically-motivated and not based on a fair evaluation of the risks. It does not serve anyone’s best interests as it would move Britain into the digital slow lane and put at risk the government’s levelling up agenda.”

Of course it’s a political decision, but the timing remains intriguing. A lot of the political pressure to exclude Huawei came from the Trump administration, which is now on its way out. Is the UK government in a hurry to set this stuff in stone in case the Biden government delivers a different set of instructions?

Another possibility is that the Tories are looking to exploit the current climate of total acquiescence from the opposition on anything that can be spun as a matter of safety. Our entire political class and wider establishment has become so cowed by the COVID-19 pandemic that nobody dares even question the precautionary principle these days, no matter how weakly supported it is by the facts on the ground.

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  1. Avatar Rajendraprasad Shinde 24/11/2020 @ 2:29 pm

    Quite right point of view by the writer. What about Honor having been sold to other company in China?

  2. Avatar Alok Sharma 25/11/2020 @ 6:49 am

    Once a great empire UK now became American puppet

  3. Avatar James 25/11/2020 @ 8:40 am

    On the one hand Huawei tells us their independant of the Chinese gov, then the Chinese gov steps in to criticise the UK for purging Huawei. The politics works both ways….

  4. Avatar MrX 25/11/2020 @ 9:11 am

    Since China is doing the exact same thing with the rest of the world with regards to only letting specific companies operate in their country and only if they hand over IP etc, I think it’s only fair that other countries treat them the same no? It’s all just silly tit for tat politics.

  5. Avatar Ben yeo 25/11/2020 @ 10:53 am

    Now is a Good time for British people and press to rise up and show the whole what is democracy and freedom is all about. If they do nothing, it is best that they shut up don’t preach to the rest of world about how great their democracy and human rights are.. Remember Julian Assagne

  6. Avatar Will d 25/11/2020 @ 3:29 pm

    UK always sucks on ?? USA as maybe they will get something from them.
    The same happened with Brexit and look what you’ve got!!!Nothing.

    • Avatar Jason 26/11/2020 @ 12:15 pm

      In society when you vote the rule of law is the largest majority wins, as in Brexit (Twice) and as has happened in the American voting.

      Are you now saying that we should ignore the lawful process and do what we are told.

      If so does that not put us into the realms of dictatorship!!

    • Avatar Mtdfm8899 27/11/2020 @ 9:46 pm

      Absolutely. What UK did is stupid and disgusting, ignorant and arrogant…

  7. Avatar Leo 25/11/2020 @ 9:11 pm

    They are destroying rule of law in the name of democracy. And will destroy liberty in the name of the law.

  8. Avatar Sebastian 26/11/2020 @ 4:42 am

    Of course it is a political tool. And a justified one at that. Huawei is cuddling with one of the most opressive regimes that still exist, and one that commits genocide. Should we really tolerate that? And the covid-trivialisation in this article is even worse: the UK had one of the worst responses to this crisis, because of their reluctancy to do things.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 26/11/2020 @ 9:12 am

      The covid-trivialisation is even worse than cuddling with one of the most opressive (sic) regimes that still exist?

  9. Avatar Hoang 26/11/2020 @ 7:36 am

    I m wondering why a couples of countries re accusing the one and only country for spying on them

  10. Avatar lhunghoe 26/11/2020 @ 10:57 am

    Why must Boris Johnson lead UK, which was originally the mother of USA , a born rebel country, kowtow on its knees in fear of US by becoming a puppet and slave of Donald Trump who uses uncalled for sanctions on so many countries. UK has lost its sovereinty and independence. Under the poor leadership of Boris the UK will become isolated in trade and business from both EU and REcEp which includes China.

    • Avatar Mtdfm8899 27/11/2020 @ 9:48 pm

      Disappointed and sorry for Boris

  11. Avatar BENJAMIN 26/11/2020 @ 11:02 am

    Chineese spying yep but no worse than USA who have demanded all uk emails are intercepted. No vendor is safe or above suspicion after 40 years in iftc government interference does not surprise me. The blatant abuse of privacy in all countries continues monitoring every move, how disappointed the governments must be that we now have to cover our faces stopping facial recognition cctv software. Wear a mask and demonstrate was once considered subversive. Never trust a government, social media or what you see on TV or read in tabloid press.

  12. Avatar Norman 27/11/2020 @ 12:48 am

    LIAR, lying and More Lies. The GREAT lLYING britain!

    In May 2020, Huawei was awarded the world’s first Common Criteria (CC) Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL) 4+ certificate for 5G products.

    The certificate indicates that the security of Huawei 5G base station products reaches the world-leading level and can provide trusted security assurance for 5G wireless access. The Common Criteria, in effect since 1999, is an internationally recognized security certification evaluation.

    The criteria originated from and unified three top standards, namely Europe’s ITSEC, Canada’s CTCPEC and America’s TCSEC, and was developed by the governments of Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, UK and US – Western nations the US is now pressing to ban Huawei from their 5G rollouts for alleged security reasons.

    • Avatar Happiman 01/12/2020 @ 1:51 am

      Another naïve victim of evil Chinese communist party propaganda. If you’re statement is true, any European county wouldn’t commit any kind of spying actives since all of their major products are CC certified even EAL5~7.

  13. Avatar David O Connor 08/12/2020 @ 4:59 am

    Wow some incendiary comments here. It’s funny that we are quick to point the finger at China for potentially taking data when the west have been doing it for decades. Plus it’s foolish to think China would risk their 5g advantage but making Huawei hand over sensitive data… or data of any nature

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