GCHQ claims Huawei 5G deal like 'letting fox loose in a chicken coop'

George Martin
The main entrance to Government Communications Headquarters, commonly known as GCHQ, the intelligence and security organisation responsible for providing signals intelligence and information assurance to the government and armed forces of the United Kingdom, based in Cheltenham.
GCHQ has reportedly told government officials to restrict Huawei's access to the UK's 5G network. (PA)

GCHQ has claimed controversial government plans to allow Huawei to develop the UK’s 5G network would be like “letting a fox loose in a chicken coop”.

A source at the intelligence hub told The Times that intelligence chiefs have reccomended that if the deal goes ahead, the Chinese company should be granted only limited access to Britain’s telecoms systems.

Senior figures at GCHQ have reportedly said the company should only be allowed on “edges” of the network.

A source said overexposing telecoms infrastructure to Huawei would be akin to “letting a fox loose in a chicken coop”.

Fotografía de archivo del 31 de octubre de 2019 de un hombre usando su smartphone junto a un letrero de la firma tecnológica china Huawei en la PT Expo en Beijing. (AP Foto/Mark Schiefelbein, Archivo)
The British government is considering letting Huawei develop the UK's 5G network. (AP)

Sensitive locations such as Westminster and Royal Navy bases would reportedly be among those excluded from the deal.

It comes after Boris Johnson said earlier this week he would not risk Britain’s security when upgrading the nation’s 5G communications network – but said critics of the Chinese technology firm must come up with an “alternative” provider.

In an interview with the BBC on Tuesday, the prime minister said he did not want to “prejudice” the country’s ability to share intelligence with allies in the so-called Five Eyes arrangement – a collaboration between the UK, Australia, US, Canada and New Zealand – as a result of the improvements he had promised voters in his election manifesto.

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It was reported on Tuesday that Washington had stepped up efforts to try and prevent Downing Street from backing Huawei’s involvement in Britain’s switch over to 5G.

A decision on which 5G vendor to use is due to be made by the government this month.

The upgrade from 4G to 5G will revolutionise mobile internet capabilities, with consumers able to download a two-hour film in less than four seconds – between 10 to 20 times faster than on the 4G network.

But senior US officials, according to the Financial Times, presented the British government with information on Monday to persuade it not to allow the tech giant to get a lucrative foothold in the UK market.

Asked about the reports in an interview with BBC Breakfast, Mr Johnson said: “The British public deserve to have access to the best possible technology.

“I have talked about infrastructure and technology. We want to put in gigabit broadband for everybody.

“Now, if people oppose one brand or another, then they have to tell us which is the alternative.

“On the other hand, let’s be clear, I don’t, as the UK prime minister, want to put in any infrastructure that is going to prejudice our national security or our ability to co-operate with Five Eyes intelligence.”