British Prime Minister Theresa May summarily fired Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson Wednesday after an investigation into leaks from a secret government meeting about the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. He denied any involvement in the leak. An investigation was launched last week after newspapers reported that Britain's National Security Council, which meets in private, had agreed to let Huawei participate in some aspects of Britain's new 5G wireless communications network. The US has been lobbying allies including Britain 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 AP reports.
The security council includes senior ministers, who receive briefings from top military and intelligence officials, and its meetings are considered highly sensitive. In a letter to Williamson, May said she "can no longer have full confidence" in him in the wake of the investigation. She told Williamson that there was "compelling evidence" suggesting his "responsibility for the unauthorized disclosure." Williamson insisted he was not the source of the leak. He said May had offered him the chance to resign rather than be fired, but "to resign would have been to accept that I ... or my staff were responsible." Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, was appointed to replace Williamson. She becomes the first woman to hold Britain's top defense post. (Huawei is fighting back against the US government's Huawei ban.)