Op-Ed: Sen. Rick Scott
January 28, 2020
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is positioned to lead the United Kingdom through an exciting and transformative time. The challenges and risks associated with the U.K.’s exit from the European Union also present many opportunities, including the opportunity to build on the already strong economic relationship between the two countries.
I believe Boris Johnson is the right man at the right time to lead the United Kingdom and capitalize on the opportunity the voters provided for a fresh start and for a new era of nationalism and autonomy.
At the same time, I and many leaders of both the executive and the legislative branches in the United States have serious concerns about the possibility of the U.K. giving Chinese tech giant Huawei access to new 5G networks. Johnson and other U.K. leaders must be extremely careful when it comes to the threat of communist China and the implications for the United States’s relationship with the U.K.
Put simply, the U.K. allowing Huawei to gain a foothold would be a grave mistake.
Huawei is a bad actor across the globe. It’s a company that aids the communist regime in Beijing, which continues to violate human rights, steal our data, technology, and intellectual property, and build up their military to compete with us and other freedom-loving countries.
As we’ve known for a long time but was recently confirmed, Huawei has received billions of dollars in Chinese government subsidies and has attempted to create backdoors into critical telecommunications infrastructure. Their goal is to squeeze out competitors around the world so countries such as the U.K. and less developed countries in Asia, Africa, southern Europe, and Latin America have no choice but to allow Huawei in.
It’s a false choice. There are alternatives to Huawei. Yes, they may not enjoy the same government backing as Huawei and thus may cost more. But the cost of allowing Huawei to gain a foothold would be far greater.
Countries that do business with Huawei eliminate their citizens’ and their country’s privacy rights. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently outlined some of Huawei’s transgressions, including espionage, theft of intellectual property, bribery, and other corrupt practices in countries. Countries that allow Huawei in give communist China direct access to the most sensitive data of their citizens, including medical records, financial information, and social media accounts.
Allowing Huawei access to U.K. markets and the 5G network would disrupt our ability to share valuable intelligence.
Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, recently introduced a bill, which I support, that would codify a prohibition on the U.S. sharing intelligence with countries that give Huawei access to their 5G networks.
As Cotton said, “The United States shouldn’t be sharing valuable intelligence information with countries that allow an intelligence-gathering arm of the Chinese Communist Party to operate freely within their borders.”
Huawei and the Chinese Communist Party are one and the same. We can’t forget that.
If the U.S. is going to consider a trade agreement with the U.K., it is imperative that Huawei is recognized as a threat to our national security partnership. The U.S. must put any trade deal with the U.K. on hold until Johnson commits to take swift action to ensure Huawei will not be used in their transition to 5G networks. This is for the security of both the U.S. and the U.K.
Communist China is a rogue actor with a weakening economy. Their strength is derived from division among freedom-loving countries around the world. It’s a zero-sum game for them. In order for them to be stronger, freedom-loving countries must be weaker and divided.
The U.S. and the U.K. share a special relationship. We are separated by an ocean but bonded by our values, our shared history, and our desire to support freedom, democracy, and economic advancement.
I hope this is an opportunity to bring our countries closer together rather than drive them further apart.
Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican, is the junior U.S. senator from Florida. He serves on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.