Tuesday, November 2, 1999 Published at 02:34 GMT
Beef ban meeting under way
British beef has received a clean bill of health from EU scientists
Agriculture Minister Nick Brown is confronting his French opposite number in the first face-to-face talks between the two men since British beef was declared safe by European Union scientists.
"I hope we can get this resolved and I want to hear what the French have to say," said Mr Brown as he went into the meeting.
"Let's have a discussion and see if we can find a way forward."
"Clearly it is in no-one's interests for there to be a protracted legal situation," said a spokesman.
According to Mr Byrne, the French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has promised to present a "full response" to the EU by Thursday.
Speaking earlier on Monday, he said: "A calm and reasoned approach to resolving this particular difficulty is by far the best way forward."
Mr Brown is determined to rebuff any attempts by France to seek a token gesture from Britain to increase the UK's beef safety measures.
The scientific findings against France were so comprehensive that the government is in no mood to make concessions.
The declaration against British beef was the first public pronouncement from the new agency.
The ban against British beef was lifted by the EU on 1 August, but on Monday attempts to restore the reputation of British beef suffered a setback in Germany where several provinces said they would defy the EU and maintain boycotts.
Partial German boycott likely
Conservative agriculture spokesman Tim Yeo has urged Mr Brown to fly to Germany following his meeting in Brussels.
He also repeated calls for the government to lift the ban on beef-on-the-bone, which Mr Brown has said could be lifted by Christmas.
Mr Yeo told BBC Radio 4: "He seems to be the only person in Europe that doesn't realise that if the British government doesn't have full confidence in British beef, it's hardly surprising the French don't either."
But Mr Brown said: "I'll not be taking lessons from the Conservatives on how to win for Britain in Europe. The Tories presided over the BSE crisis, and then waged a petulant 'war on Europe' which only made matters worse.
"Tim Yeo's position is unravelling. While he calls on the French to obey the recommendation of EU scientists and lift the ban on British beef, his leader William Hague is urging the British Government to ignore its scientists and ban French meat imports."
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