A former head of MI6 said the Government seems to have "changed their view" on the role of Chinese telecoms company Huawei in building the UK’s 5G network.
Sir Richard Dearlove – who led the security service from 1999 to 2004 – has previously outlined his strong opposition to the Government’s plan to allow a limited role for Huawei in the development of the new mobile phone infrastructure, despite Downing Street's own acknowledgement it is a "high-risk vendor".
Sir Richard said the UK should become "more assertive" with China as the country has become "more aggressive" during an interview on Sky News.
He added it is "certainly" his expectation for the Government to change its mind on allowing Huawei a role in the building of the UK’s 5G network.
"I don’t have any direct inside knowledge but I think I’m one of the individuals who has been pressing very hard for Huawei to be excluded from the UK’s 5G," he said.
"The problem is we have had a close relationship with Huawei dating back, I think, to the year 2000, so getting Huawei out of the systems can’t be done rapidly – it will have to be done cumulatively over time."
He added: "Since the American embargo on Huawei was imposed it’s not clear that they’re going to be able anyway to provide the 5G equipment on which the system will depend.
"I’ve always believed that there is a strategic security reason for not allowing the Chinese that degree of involvement in the construction of our critical infrastructure."
Talking about the relationship between the Chinese state and Huawei, Sir Richard said it is "absolutely clear-cut".
"Huawei is not a sort of ordinary international telecommunications company, it’s an intimate part of the Chinese state.
"And if you know anything about Chinese military strategy, they talk about the fusion of civil and military capabilities.
"There is a close linkage undoubtedly between the Chinese military capability and Huawei."
Sir Richard also said the Chinese government’s cyber attack capability "is a threat" to the UK.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said a decision on Huawei would be made by the National Security Council and announced to Parliament.
Cover image: PA.