Business

BT calls for free-flowing trade after Brexit transition period ends next year

BT chief executive Philip Jansen

TELECOMS giant BT has warned Boris Johnson's Government that it must ensure free-flowing trade after the Brexit transition period ends next year.

In a statement yesterday, BT said it has plans in place to ensure services for customers would not be interrupted.

"Our contingency planning is focused on ensuring we can continue to provide uninterrupted service to our customers, including sufficient inventory to protect against potential import delays."

The comments came as the company revealed sales fell two per cent to £17.2 billion in the nine months to December 31, with underlying pre-tax profits also down three per cent to £5.9bn.

The telecoms giant, which also owns and runs the EE mobile network, blamed the fall on competition, regulation and higher costs of running its wholesale broadband operation Openreach.

Speaking yesterday, BT boss Philip Jansen flagged up the company's moves to answer 100 per cent of customer service calls in Ireland and the UK.

He hailed the endorsement of call centres, including in Belfast an Enniskillen, as one of the company's key recent successes during a trading update on Thursday.

Mr Jansen also said yesterday that BT welcomed the "clarity" following Boris Johnson's Government's decision to allow Chinese tech giant Huawei access to the UK's 5G phone network infrastructure.

The BT boss said the decision will have "an impact of around £500m over the next five years", as he admitted that current trading has been weaker than expected.

He said the company would now go through the Government recommendations on the Huawei plans, which include allowing the firm access to some UK infrastructure but not sensitive communications platforms.

"The security of our network is paramount for BT,” said Mr Jansen. “We therefore welcome and are supportive of the clarity provided by Government around the use of certain vendors in networks across the UK and agree that the priority should be the security of the UK's communications infrastructure.”

On the results, he said the slight fall will not knock profits for the full year, which remain in line with expectations, following a year with £2.9bn of investment in new infrastructure.

The company also has a free cash flow of £1bn, although this was slightly down on last year due to a deposit paid for the next set of UEFA club football rights.

Earlier, this week the Government said it will exclude Huawei from sensitive 'core' parts of 5G and gigabit-capable networks, and limit it to having up to 35 per cent of non-sensitive parts of the network.

But the decision is at odds with the US, where politicians are calling for a complete ban on the company in the UK.

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