Former chancellor urges Boris Johnson not to cut ties with China ahead of Brexit

PUBLISHED: 12:15 07 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:15 07 July 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street, in Westminster. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street, in Westminster. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

Boris Johnson’s administration has been urged not to break ties with China, the world’s second largest economy, despite pressure from his own party.

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Former chancellor Phillip Hammond warned government not to turn its back on China despite “strong differences of opinion on a number of issues”.

A controversial dossier - reportedly compiled with the help of former MI6 spy Christopher Steele - has claimed that high-profile people were targeted to act as “useful idiots” for Beijing.

The Daily Mail reported that the 86-page document said politicians and academics were among those in the UK whose backing China sought to secure.

The dossier described Huawei as “Beijing’s strategic asset”.


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But ex-Tory MP Hammond warned the anti-Chinese sentiment comes at a time the country is turning its back on Europe.

He said: “Right now, the UK is in the process of loosening its ties with trade partners in Europe in the name of expanding its global reach.

“It seems to me this is not a time to be wanting to weaken our trade links with the world’s second largest economy.

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“We have to find a way, and I think we have done it in the past with many countries, of continuing to trade, continuing to invest and welcome investment from countries with which we have frank disagreements about political issues.”

Hammond’s intervention comes amid intense pressure on Johnson from his own backbenches to halt Huawei’s involvement in the 5G rollout over concerns that it presents a security risk.

Ex-foreign secretary Hammond said he was “concerned about an “alarming” outbreak of anti-Chinese sentiment within the Conservative Party”.

The Prime Minister’s move to allow the company a role set the Government at odds with the US, which had repeatedly warned against the firm amid clashes with China.

A spokesman for the Chinese telecoms giant described the allegations as “unfounded”, and said they were part of a “long-running US campaign” against the company.

Dr Huiyao Wang, president of the Centre for China and Globalisation and an adviser to the Chinese government, urged ministers not to indulge in a “conspiracy theory” about Huawei.

He told the Today programme: “The UK is a country that invented a lot of trade formats and now it is getting more independent, has a lot of soft power.

“It should really take a lead on safeguarding the multilateral trading system, including technology usage around the world, rather than going back to conspiracy theory, and really has no hard evidence and no proof to deny a company of the most advanced technology in the world.”

China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, had sought to dismiss fears that Huawei’s involvement allows the Chinese state backdoor access into mobile networks.

During an online press conference on Monday, he warned of “consequences” if Britain wanted to make China a “hostile country”.

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