United Kingdom

Giving control to Beijing is too big a risk: TOM TUGENDHAT has warned

Our enemies are far away and the an invasion of our shores is highly unlikely. 

But, make no mistake, we are on the front line of a new type of conflict: cyber warfare.

This is not measured in the might of armies. Instead, our data can be stolen or corrupted from anywhere in the world, with potentially deadly consequences.

Cyber warfare: Russia has trialled ways of shutting down the grid so Ukrainian hospitals are cut off and fears have been raised over Chinese firm Huawei 

That is why the debate over Huawei and our 5G network is so important. 

In cyberspace, a 'dirty bomb' doesn't have to physically destroy in order to kill – it just has to deny access and close options.

At a time when we know, for example, that Russia has trialled ways of shutting down the grid so Ukrainian hospitals are cut off, it is crucial that systems in the UK's hospitals, our power lines and our military sites are protected.

This isn't just about today.

Estonia has grasped the nature of this threat and has the world's most complete electronic national database, housed in multiple servers overseas to exist even after invasion.

Risky: Tom  Tugendhat, Conservative  MP,  has warned  against depending on  firms such as Huwaei

A nation isn't only about land. At a time when Britain is about to roll out 5G, we'd do well to heed these lessons – for our choice of provider should not be about economics, but about sovereignty.

The truth is that only nations able to protect their data will be sovereign.

Huawei's 5G sets us on a path that undermines our autonomy and the repercussions could be grave.

Prepared for the threat: Estonia has a comprehensive plan in  place as it has the world's most complete electronic national database, housed in multiple servers overseas to keep going  even after invasion

In just over 30 years, Huawei has gone from nothing to a global leader in telecoms – dominant in parts of Africa and across Asia, as well as in China itself.

Many tech companies aim to have a monopoly. 

But our interests are different. 

Competition reduces price and the risk of a single point of failure, so multiple operators are essential. 

That's one argument the Government makes for doing a 5G deal with Huawei.

It would see Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei providing the connections we all rely on.

And if we were only to work with two firms, it would leave us vulnerable if one failed.

Rightly, we shouldn't rely on essential services that have only one reserve parachute. Huawei, however, is not like the others. 

It's incompatible with rivals, meaning that once the hardware is in, you're stuck with it.

Such a dependency, combined with allegations about state subsidies, lead many to believe that Huawei's bid isn't a sales pitch but tech dumping – selling its products cheaply to achieve a dominant position.

In 4G, there's a distinction between core and non-core equipment, dividing the heart of the system from the antennas, but that difference is less clear in a 5G network that handles more data at higher speeds.

Keeping us  safe: But Mr Tugendhat said he  believed GCHQ was home to top tech engineers to ward the UK against outside threats

Of course, we can defend ourselves – GCHQ has the best tech engineers keeping us safe and they say they can cope with the threats. But that's today. 

The big challenge is the next five to ten years. Each upgrade would require thousands, even millions, of lines of code to be analysed to ensure none has a filter sending data to Beijing, as is alleged in Uganda and Tanzania.

Allowing Huawei here a decade ago to work on our 4G network was a reasonable bet. It hasn't paid off. 

The choice now is to double down or cut our losses.