Europe

British defence secretary fired after probe into Huawei leaks

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UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has been sacked following an investigation into an information leak from the National Security Council.

British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson was summarily fired Wednesday after an investigation into leaks from a secret government meeting about Chinese telecoms firm Huawei.

In a letter to Williamson, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said she "can no longer have full confidence" in Williamson in the wake of the investigation.

In the letter released by Downing Street, May told Williamson that there was "compelling evidence" suggesting his "responsibility for the unauthorised disclosure" from the National Security Council.

"No other, credible version of events to explain this leak has been identified," she said.

Williamson responded in a letter to May, saying he was "sorry you felt recent leaks" originated from the defence ministry.

"I strenuously deny that I was in any way involved in this leak and I am confident that a thorough and formal inquiry would have vindicated my position".

Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, has been appointed as Williamson's replacement.

Penny Mordaunt arrives for a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London, Britain, 23 April 2019.
Penny Mordaunt arrives for a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London, Britain, 23 April 2019.
AP

An investigation was launched last week after newspapers reported that the security council, which meets in private, had agreed to let Huawei participate in some aspects of Britain's new 5G wireless communications network.

The UK government insists no decision has been made about Huawei.

The United States has been lobbying allies to exclude Huawei from all 5G networks, noting that the Chinese government can force the company to give it backdoor access to data on its networks.

The security council includes senior ministers, who receive briefings from top military and intelligence officials, and its meetings are considered highly sensitive.

Gavin Williamson.
Gavin Williamson has been sacked as Britiain's Defence Secretary by Prime Minister Theresa May.
AP

The leak comes amid a Brexit-fuelled breakdown in government discipline.

With May weakened by her failure to take Britain out of the European Union, multiple ministers are positioning themselves to try to replace her, partly by cultivating positive press coverage.

London's Daily Telegraph said last week it had obtained details of security council meetings about Huawei. It said several ministers, including Williamson, had opposed letting Huawei work on Britain's 5G network.

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