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The BBC's John Pienaar
"Tony Blair sees a friend and ally in the German Chancellor"
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Saturday, 25 March, 2000, 13:07 GMT
Blair: Anglo-German relations best ever
tony blair
Blair gives the German beef decision the thumbs up
Tony Blair believes relations with Germany have never been so good - despite growing anger at BMW's sell-off of Rover.

Speaking at a conference in Oxford on Anglo-German relations, he said relations "had never been warmer than they are today."

Mr Blair touched on the continuing row over BMW's action, saying he did not believe it had harmed the British and German Governments' bilateral friendship.

He spoke on the day that a survey suggested six out of 10 people in the UK are now less likely to buy a car from the German firm after thousands of jobs were put at risk.

Mr Blair also said he was grateful to Germany for lifting the ban on British beef.

Gerhardt Schroeder
Gerhard Schroeder at the Oxford summit
He told the summit: "Regarding British beef, it wasn't easy but it was the right thing to do.

"However there are issues which can cause real pain for those people and their families, like BMW.

"But these are not problems in relations between our two governments."

Mr Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder wanted to highlight the two countries' growing relationship.

Mr Schroeder had dinner with Mr Blair at the prime minister's country residence Chequers, in Buckinghamshire.

Downing Street said Mr Schroeder had specifically asked that the "best of British beef" was on the menu.

Rover badge
BMW's ditching of Rover has not soured relations
Germany lifted its ban on imports of British beef last week after imposing it in 1996 after outbreaks of mad cow disease.

Mr Blair also spoke how the two countries shared the same modernising, political and economic philosophies.

He reiterated the decisions made at the Lisbon summit which could see 20 million internet jobs created as Europe aims to be world's best knowledge-based economy by 2010.

There are plans to provide all schools with internet access by the end of 2001, and also proposals to liberalise Europe's telecommunications.

Mr Blair said: "We should stop being defensive about economic change."

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See also:

25 Mar 00 | Business
BMW backlash grows
19 Mar 00 | Business
Drivers urged to buy British
17 Mar 00 | Europe
Germany lifts UK beef ban
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