THE government has resolved its first major policy conundrum with the National Security Council agreeing that Huawei, a global leader in telecoms technology, should get a chunk of Britain’s 5G network.
There are three serious global contenders in this market, Nokia and Ericsson and Huawei, while domestic telecoms enterprises in Britain lack the investment heft to secure a secure position in this highly capital-intensive industry.
BT and Vodafone are both lobbying to permit Huawei a role in this investment.
In agreeing that Huawei be granted a stake in the network — capped at 35 per cent — the government has some assurance that the enormous capital investment will be forthcoming.
China’s runaway economic development and the gigantic revenues that arise from its manufactured exports mean there is a mass of capital looking for a home.
Only big players can succeed in this economic environment. The capital investment required to upgrade the technical infrastructure could reach a trillion pounds within the next decade and this in the context of the still disappointing revenues that arose from the earlier investment in the 4G network.
Set against the political desirability of Britain undertaking this vast enterprise — and the profits that will inevitably arise from it — there are the objections to allowing Huawei take a stake that emanates from Donald Trump.
These are expressed as concern about the security implications of allowing a foreign investor access to the nation’s communications system — the foundation of this concern being the supposed contradiction between Britain’s national interest and that of China.
The confrontation between the US and China, expressed physically as the encirclement of China by an extensive chain of US military bases, has the potential to become a major war threat.
Britain’s entanglement in this stand-off manifests itself partly in the espionage and monitoring capacity of the Five Eyes network that subordinates “our” GCHQ — and the spying facilities of Australia, Canada and New Zealand — to the priorities of the US security and intelligence establishment.
That these do not necessarily coincide with Trump’s personal priorities is yet one more random threat to understanding the world as it is. And that is before we consider how Trump’s view on how this might affect trade negotiations between the US and Britain.
US concerns are echoed from within the Tory ranks in Parliament and from the securi-state apparatus of serving and pensioned-off GCHQ apparatchiks — an interest group that can always find a willing megaphone at the BBC even though the boss of MI5 thinks there is no risk to the intelligence-sharing relationship with the US.
The questions that Labour’s front bench foreign affairs team should be asking centre on what is the interest of the British people in this spat. Is it in an ever closer military, intelligence and diplomatic convergence with the US? Or is it that great advantage can benefit the British people from an open and transparent trading relationship with the gigantic and growing Chinese economy?
In the context of allegations about the supposed threat to personal privacy and fears of surveillance it might also be relevant to raise the question of GCHQ’s domestic surveillance role with perhaps a digression to remind us that in 2015 the investigatory powers tribunal ruled that the rules regulating access by GCHQ to emails and phone calls intercepted by the US National Security Agency breached human rights law.
Nato membership and the toxic military and intelligence alliance with the US is increasingly at odds with the interests of the British people which itself conflicts with the priorities of our ruling elites. Peaceful co-operation and transparent trading relationships will serve our people better.
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