Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Thursday, November 11, 1999 Published at 05:21 GMT


Europe moves against French beef ban

The French say British beef could still pose a health hazard

France will face legal action from Europe if it refuses to start lifting its ban on British beef by next Tuesday.

Intense high-level contacts are taking place between Britain, France and the European Commission before the deadline to try and avert a legal showdown.

The BBC's Cary Johnston: "One of Britain's closest neighbours is refusing to open its markets"
But Britain has said there is "no question" of reviewing beef safety schemes as the French are believed to have requested.

The last-minute talks are likely to concentrate on the date-based export scheme, agreed to ensure the safety of British beef, said the EU. But Tony Blair insisted Britain would not re-open the scheme, which has been approved by EU scientists.

He said it was far better to avoid legal action if possible, but it would be pursued if it became the only option.

Food Row Fears
EC Food Safety Commissioner David Byrne and President Romano Prodi have agreed in private discussions that the search for a diplomatic outcome should continue.

But Mr Prodi's spokesman Ricardo Levy said: "It is clear that, should this not end up with success, then the commissioner will stand up to his responsibilities."

Recourse to the law

[ image: The European Union ban on British beef was lifted on 1 August]
The European Union ban on British beef was lifted on 1 August
The European Union lifted its ban on exports of British beef on 1 August. The embargo was introduced in 1996 amid fears that "mad cow disease", then prevalent in British cattle herds, could be passed to humans.

The date-based export scheme was designed to ensure that only cattle free of the disease are exported from the UK.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown had warned France not to seek new conditions on British beef.

He said Britain would insist the commission took legal action unless the French backed down and complied with the unanimous ruling from EU scientists.

"If the French are saying they are unable to lift the ban following the exhaustive clarification of the technical workings of the scheme they have had from us we will have no choice but make recourse to law," he said.

"I would have preferred to get this resolved by discussion and by sensible analysis of the situation but if we can't do it, if we have to fight our way through the courts, then so be it."

Mr Blair rejected calls for retaliation in the House of Commons on Wednesday, saying a trade war cost thousands of British jobs.

Conservative leader William Hague called for Mr Brown to be replaced and, in a reference to a speech Mr Blair made in Paris earlier this week, provoked laughter when he said: "On Monday, you gave the French the Third Way and on Wednesday they gave you the two fingers."

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

11 Nov 99 | UK
UK farmers angry and dismayed

11 Nov 99 | UK Politics
Britain a 'pushover' - Hague

10 Nov 99 | Europe
Analysis: France faces legal challenge

03 Nov 99 | UK
UK and France - the official story

29 Oct 99 | Sci/Tech
Q&A: How safe is our meat?

28 Oct 99 | UK Politics
The UK Government's beef ban analysis

Internet Links

European Commission

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online