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The BBC's Justin Webb
"Exactly what the Germans and French had been demanding"
 real 28k

The BBC's Justin Webb
The labelling row that is upsetting the UK beef farmers
 real 28k

Friday, 19 November, 1999, 22:08 GMT
Beef row 'compromise' under fire
France and Germany want all British beef clearly labelled

A move designed to end the beef row between Britain and France has been attacked by the Conservatives.

The European Commission says Britain has agreed that its beef can be marked either British or Scottish.

Both France and Germany have been pushing for such labelling, but it was thought to break EU single market rules.

Now, the commission has said that under the date-based export scheme, such marking is allowed - which the Conservatives insist is a climbdown.

The Tories have accused the government of a climbdown
Legal experts within the commission argue that a label such as "British, XEL(export eligible) beef," would not break the rules on countries of origin.

"It should be noted that this information is not a simple mark of national origin, but an indication that the meat has been produced in accordance with the date-based export scheme in force in the UK," said Friday's statement.

However the Tories have accused the government of offering a further concession to the French.

"The danger is that this special label will act as a warning to consumers in France and Germany and it will steer them away into buying an alternative product," shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo told BBC Radio 4's the World at One programme.

Food Row Fears
"This may act as a kind of stigma on British beef. It is quite absurd for the Ministry of Agriculture to say this is not a concession."

But Agriculture Minister Nick Brown rejected any suggestion of a British climbdown.

"It has always been the British Government's intention that meat going through the date-based export scheme would be clearly labelled to ensure consumer choice as far as we can and also to ensure that the product is traceable within the industry," he told BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

However, he refused to be drawn on when the French ban would be lifted.

"We are making very good progress and I hope are able to get this settled soon. We are not setting timetables for other people. We are trying to get this resolved through discussion," he said.

Meanwhile the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, has said he believes France should lift its ban of British beef.

In an interview with the French newspaper, Le Monde he said the ruling by the European Commission that there was no longer a health risk should be respected.

He said Germany - which has yet to comply with the ruling - was in a different situation as the regional states had the right under national law to decide for themselves whether to lift the ban.

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