Denials as Defence Secretary Sacked Over Huawei Leak
Gavin Williamson Denies Leaking Huawei 5G Decision
Gavin Williamson denies leak as Penny Mordaunt steps quickly into his shoes as his replacement as Britain’s Secretary of State for Defence. Amidst worldwide concerns over the security implications of allowing Chinese tech giant Huawei to build national 5G infrastructure, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May allegedly gave the go-ahead, according to an inside leak from the National Security Council.
May blamed Williamson for the leak, citing unspecified “compelling evidence” and sacked him Wednesday after he refused to resign.
“I volunteered everything up. I couldn’t have volunteered more information on the whole thing,” Gavin Williamson told The Times.
“Frankly, I’d rather have had a police inquiry, because the beauty of a police inquiry is I’d have been absolutely exonerated and would have been in the clear.”
According to investigator Sir Mark Sedwill, Williamson had spoken to Daily Telegraph reporter Steven Swinford on the day of National Security Council discussions about Huawei’s potential access to the UK’s 5G network.
But Williamson states that he only discussed Brexit and the Conservative leadership, no the Huawei decision. Williamson said he had been “completely and utterly screwed” and suggested that his sacking was down to Sir Mark’s grudge against him. Williamson had also been a possible contender to replace May when she steps down.
5G Security Concerns Over Huawei
With 4G LTE networks becoming increasingly saturated, countries are planning for the development of 5G New Radio (NR), with Huawei as one of the major international contenders.
However, the USA, New Zealand and Australia have already banned Huawei from their 5G. Earlier last month, the USA warned Germany that it will restrict intelligence sharing if they allow Huawei to build their 5G network.
A report from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) released in February assessed the risks and concluded that “Allowing Huawei’s participation (in 5G) is at best naive, at worst irresponsible.”
MI6 chief Alex Younger expressed his concerns over Huawei and 5G in 2018.
In December 2018, Williamson expressed “grave” and “very deep concerns” about Huawei providing technology to upgrade Britain’s services to 5G. He accused China of acting “sometimes in a malign way”.
Whilst Government apparatchiks may be furious over the leak, the British public would otherwise have been unaware that a decision with such serious security implications had been made over their heads and against the best advice available.
During the investigation into the leak, attention focused on five ministers said to have objected to the Huawei decision: Home Secretary Sajid Javid; Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt; Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson; International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox. All five have denied leaking information on Huawei.
Immediately following news of the leak, Williamson issued a statement saying: “Neither I nor any of my team have divulged information from the National Security Council.”
David Lidington, the Cabinet Office Minister and Mrs May’s de facto deputy, Chancellor Philip Hammond, Business Secretary Greg Clark and Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright were also present at the National Security Council meeting.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, former head of the British Army, General Lord Dannatt, said: “This is a personal tragedy for Gavin Williamson; it’s also something of a tragedy, certainly very upsetting, for defence at the present moment.”
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said that May now “considers the matter to be closed.”
Williamson was appointed Secretary of State for Defence in November 2017 after his predecessor, Sir Michael Fallon, was forced to resign after allegations that he had put his hand on a female journalist’s knee fifteen years’ earlier. The woman in question, radio host Julia Hartley-Brewer, had not made a complaint.
Huawei has faced many criticisms for various aspects of its operations, particularly with regard to cybersecurity and intellectual property. In February 2003, Cisco Systems sued Huawei Technologies for allegedly infringing on its patents and illegally copying source code used in its routers and switches. There have also been allegations of selling to embargoed nations, such as Iran, and selling surveillance equipment to the Taliban.