Lord Browne of Madingley, the former BP boss, is to step down early as the UK chairman of Huawei Technologies as it faces a government ban on involvement in the UK’s 5G infrastructure.
Sky News has learnt that Lord Browne gave two months’ notice of his resignation in the last few days, meaning he will step down from Huawei’s UK board in September.
His term had been due to expire next March.
News of the heavyweight businessman’s early departure comes just hours before Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, is expected to tell MPs of the government’s decision to ban Huawei from supplying kit for use in 5G networks.
Sources said on Tuesday morning that Victor Zhang, the boss of Huawei’s UK operations, had held talks earlier this week with Ciaran Martin, the head of the National Cyber Security Centre, to discuss possible measures to reassure the government about its equipment.
Lord Browne’s resignation leaves a trio of other non-executives on the Huawei UK board, the most recent addition to which was Sir Mike Rake, the former BT Group chairman.
Sir Andrew Cahn, the former head of UK Trade & Investment, and Sir Ken Olisa, the Lord Lieutenant of Great London and former deputy chairman of the Institute of Directors, remain on the Huawei UK board.
Lord Browne told Reuters in an interview last week that the UK government’s approach to the Chinese telecoms equipment manufacturer that there was “no diplomacy here”.
“The UK has had a very long relationship with China and I hope it’s not one that they simply throw away.”
Huawei, which has been targeted by Washington as part of the escalating trade war between the US and China, has always denied links to Beijing.
It declined to comment on Lord Browne’s early exit, while the peer himself could not be reached.
The prospect of a UK ban represents a sharp u-turn from Boris Johnson’s administration, which said as recently as January that the company would be permitted to play a “limited role” in Britain’s 5G infrastructure.
On Monday, Philip Jansen, BT’s chief executive, said eliminating Huawei entirely from UK telecoms networks would take a decade.
He added that removing Huawei kit would escalate short-term security risks.
A Huawei spokesperson said: “”When Lord Browne became Chairman of Huawei UK’s board of directors in 2015, he brought with him a wealth of experience which has proved vital in ensuring Huawei’s commitment to corporate governance in the UK.
“He has been central to our commitment here dating back 20 years, and we thank him for his valuable contribution.”