|5.31.96||Tourists fight shy of mad beefeaters||5.30.96||Phosmet and Warble Fly|
|5.28.96||BSE crisis could last six years||5.27.96||Germany: UK sowing the seeds of hatred|
|5.28.96||Policy of EU disruption moves into top gear||5.22.96||Britain Freezes Diplomatic Relations|
|5.28.96||Cabinet at odds over tactics in beef war||5.22.96||Europe says move unhelpful|
|5.28.96||Britain blocks EU measures over beef ban||5.21.96||John Bull moves against the herd|
|5.28.96||Major's beef policy could backfire||5.21.96||Meat embargo may stay until 1997|
|5.28.96||Major stands firm over beef bust-up||5.20.96||EU to ease ban on British beef|
|5.28.96||Operation Moo is a phoney war||5.16.96||Will Europeans Ever Lift Ban?|
|5.27.96||Youth abandons British beef||5.24.96||Germany offended by racist British headlines|
|5.27.96||Monks break habit of a lifetime||5.11.96||US Ranchers Going Broke|
|5.4.96||Beef farmers take Europe to court||5.1.96||Tougher Measures agreed to|
|5.24.96||Britain to stonewall Europe||5.22.96||Abattoirs' lawsuit on older cattle exposes rifts|
|5.20.96||Beef confusing issue for Labor||5.20.96||European currency delay unlikely|
|5.24.96||Letters to the editor ... London Times|
WHO'S afraid of BSE? French tour parties, German language students and Hungarian au pairs are shunning Britain this summer because they fear they will catch "mad cow" disease from Sunday roasts and steak and kidney pies.
Tour operators, language schools and au pair agencies say hundreds of bookings have been cancelled by Europeans terrified of developing Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), the human form of BSE, by visiting Britain. Even the safety of the beefeaters guarding the Tower of London has been questioned. Those who do venture across the Channel are demanding guarantees they will not be exposed to any beef produce.
Richard Tobias, chief executive of the British Incoming Tour Operators Association, said he knew of up to 75 tour groups, each comprising about 50 people, that had cancelled holidays. Mario Bodini, managing director of JAC Travel, said the "more volatile" countries of France, Italy and Spain were proving most difficult. "We have lost between 400 and 500 passengers to date," he said.
With the Continent in a state of panic, foreign au pairs could become a rarer sight in Britain than a contented dairy farmer. Andrea Watson, owner of Au Pairs Elite, a London firm, said it was Hungarian au pairs who were the most concerned.
Foreign-language students are also shunning Britain. Richard Walker-Arnott is chief executive of the Association of Recognised English Language Services, whose members teach 250,000 foreign students in Britain each year. He said most schools had removed beef from their menus. "But there are plenty of stories about little Jean-Claudes having to make do with fish fingers while the families they are staying with tuck into a good old Sunday roast," he said.
* More than 60% of people back John Major's decision to block EU business until the ban on British beef is lifted, according to an ICM poll in today's Observer. But voters blame the government rather than the EU for the beef crisis, by a majority of three to one, the survey suggests.
A MEETING between John Major and Kenneth Clarke, the Cabinet's leading pro-European, at 1 1am yesterday was crucial to the Prime Minister's dramatic announcement four hours later that Britain was effectively freezing relations with the European Union.
Cabinet ministers had been aware for about three weeks that the policy of non-co-operation was the one most likely to be adopted if the Government's hopes of a breakthrough were not realised.
A study by Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, which was completed last week, concluded that all the other measures being canvassed by Tory Euro-sceptics including retaliatory trade bans, withholding Britain's payments to the EU, or even going for de Gaulle's "empty chair" policy of not turning up to meetings would either be illegal or counter-productive.
Neither was there great enthusiasm for the policy announced yesterday of blocking progress on all business. According to Whitehall sources, the full Cabinet discussed the options on several occasions. But the decision to go for broke yesterday was the Prime Minister's. He told colleagues: "Enough is enough."
With Conservative MPs baying for action, he was well aware that the failure of veterinary experts to lift even partially the ban on beef on Monday night would be seen as yet another kick in the teeth. According to a friend: "He knew that Douglas Hogg (the Agriculture Minister) would be torn limb from limb if he merely told us that it was unfortunate but that he was still trying and that, yes, the ban would soon be lifted." So at 8am yesterday he had a "conference" telephone call with Mr Hogg, who was in Brussels preparing for another farm ministers' meeting, and Mr Rifkind, who was in Strasbourg. It was agreed to go ahead with a plan that would almost certainly never have been unwrapped had the veterinary experts come to a different decision.
It was, according to sources close to Mr Major, a decision taken "more in sorrow than anger". But he was also said to be genuinely upset at the way Britain had been treated. "He felt that a lot of people were letting him down saying one thing, doing another." He told one friend: "I have been through merry hell to keep this Europe show on the road. I have shown good faith to them. They have done nothing to help me."
He was particularly irritated at the behaviour of Spain, Portugal and The Netherlands, who had indicated that they would support a lifting of the ban but changed their minds at the last moment. He told another friend: "Britain is being pushed around and I am not having the country treated like this. We are a big player."
The Prime Minister first had to confirm that Mr Clarke was on side. He had every reason to believe that he would be. The Chancellor apparently accepted during extensive correspondence that such action might eventually have to be taken.
But Mr Major had to be sure. He would not have been able to announce the plan for a single currency referendum early in April without Mr Clarke's backing. Throughout the beef dispute Mr Clarke, along with Michael Heseltine, the Cabinet's other big Euro enthusiast, have been constantly arguing for negotiation rather than retaliation.
However, according to his friends, Mr Clarke did not put up a fight yesterday. He accepted that the diplomatic avenues had been exhausted. The attraction of the blocking option was that it was not illegal, said friends. "The Chancellor would not have backed any action that was illegal," a source said. "He accepted, with regret, that this was the only course open."
After Mr Clarke was firmly on board, Mr Major then made sure that everyone else in the Cabinet knew what he was doing. Mr Rifkind arrived at Heathrow at 12.30pm and the two spoke again on the telephone. The Foreign Secretary then went to Downing Street for another chat with the Prime Minister. Mr Heseltine was informed in China. All other Cabinet ministers were informed.
By last night it was clear that Mr Major's move has changed the mood among Tory MPs. One said: "Whether it gets the ban lifted or not, I don't know, but at last we're doing something."
Officials said that talk of British retaliation was likely only to harden attitudes in Germany and the other six member states which on Monday blocked moves to ease the ban on beef products. "Perhaps John Major wants to crank up the pressure, but there's a danger he will upset the progress we are already making," an official said.
In a formal reaction, the Commission said that the beef problem affected all member states, not just Britain. "It is therefore a problem for the whole of the European Union and a solution can only be achieved through the proper functioning of the Union's institutions and procedures which is in all member states' interests to safeguard."
The Commission is expected today to endorse a fresh attempt to win over reluctant states at a farm ministers' meeting on June 3 in favour of a partial lifting of the ban. But there was no support for agreeing a timetable for lifting the overall quarantine on British beef.
Franz Fischler, the Agruculture Commissioner, who is leading the drive to ease the ban, said: "The Commission is doing everything in its power to try to convince the member states that our approach is the correct one." It was vital, however, for Britain to help to win back consumer confidence by being seen to comply with its commitments on eradicating BSE. Herr Fischler said that veterinary officials had come close on Monday to approving the by-products measure by the requisite weighted majority. "We almost had a qualified majority yesterday. It was very much on a knife-edge."
The strength of Mr Major's ultimatum sparked some alarm in the EU's institutions. No state since Charles de Gaulle's France in 1965 has undertaken a policy of total obstruction.
Greece, Spain, Italy and other states have all adopted blocking tactics to win concessions on single issues in recent years but not on the broad scale suggested by Mr Major. Even Margaret Thatcher's dogged and eventually successful campaign in the 1980s to win a rebate on Britain's budget contribution stopped short of obstructing business.
Greece has most often adopted the limited blocking tactic, notably over EU relations with Turkey. Italy refused to allow through the 1994 budget until it won higher milk quotas. Spain threatened to hold up the admission of new members two years ago until it won access for its vessels to the "Irish box" fishing zone.
The need for unanimous voting means Britain would have the power to block decisions on foreign policy, justice, immigration and asylum. On that front, the next target could be work on a common stand on racism and xenophobia early next month. Unanimous voting is also required to approve changes in taxation, in senior EU appointments and the allocation of state aid as well as the shifting of funds within the budget and research spending. A victim of this could be the plan by Jacques Santer, the EU President, to move excess funds in the farm budget to pay for job-creating investment in transport.
Diplomats from other states were incredulous that Britain could resort to such a policy over a crisis that is widely seen to be self-inflicted. As farm ministers left Brussels, several criticised Britain for continuing to fail to take the measures needed to begin restoring public confidence. "It's important that they don't just promise measures, but they also apply them," said Wilhelm Molterer, the Austrian minister.
While the Germans remained adamant that it was far too early to consider lifting any of the ban, Philippe Vasseur, the French minister, said France wanted to avoid alienating Britain further. Ivan Yates, the Irish minister, said: "It would be totally destructive of Britain to respond to last night's vote with recriminations."
Since Stephen Dorrell's first, ill-fated, announcement of a possible link between BSE and a new strain of CJD two months ago the Government has been struggling to gain some kind of control over events. Maladroit ministers failed to take a consistent, coherent and confidence-building line. Europe's ban reflected the concerns of consumers in Britain and beyond.
Slowly, however, a sense of perspective has been restored. Domestic beef consumption has started to rise again. The EU Agriculture Commissioner, Franz Fischler, said there was insufficient scientific evidence to merit a ban on beef products. A majority of the Union's members voted on Monday to lift the ban on tallow, gelatine and semen. But a blocking minority of seven nations, led by Germany, insisted the ban should stay. All the attempts by the hapless Agriculture Minister, Douglas Hogg, to bargain with Britain's EU partners were set at naught.
With quiet words in chancelleries having achieved so little, the Prime Minister was under pressure from his party to take Clausewitz's advice and continue diplomacy by other means. By choosing confrontation the Prime Minister has, for the moment, united the vast majority of his party. Even pro-integrationists feel the hot breath of angry rural voters on their necks. Whatever the rights or wrongs about beef and BSE the episode has encapsulated this Government's tendency to be driven by events beyond its control. By taking this stand the Prime Minister has a chance to use political alchemy to turn the vexed issue of beef into the clear question of who is John Bull.
Already he seems to have stolen a march on Labour. Tony Blair's response in the House was reasonable in its content but in contrast with Mr Major's command, he seemed a nit-picking lawyer. When he accused Mr Major of using strong words not backed by the necessary detail, he was throwing stones from a glass house.
When the Prime Minister carries the fight to Brussels there is a risk that he will be bogged down in the Flanders mud. A policy of non-cooperation risks alienating those allies on other European issues which Britain has sought to win. It could prevent progress on expediting business where Britain has something to gain. It will create a resentment that will, whatever this episode's conclusion, take some time to heal.
But, beyond all that, if carried through with confidence, a policy of non-cooperation will demonstrate that Britain is determined to fight hard to safeguard its national interests. When General de Gaulle risked the wrath of his allies by holding up the development of the infant European Community to secure France's national interests, he guaranteed that his country's words would carry extra weight for years to come. Britain's budget rebate was not won until Margaret Thatcher swung her handbag.
If Mr Major's gamble is to succeed then it should mark a new departure in British policy. A tenacious campaign of the kind outlined last week by the Home Secretary to see powers returned from Brussels to Britain must be pursued. The diplomatic strategy may also lead to a greater, political, gamble. By making Britain's relations with Europe the central political issue over the next few months, the Government could build on increasing disposable incomes, the threat from taxation and the recently, but vividly, established impression of divisions among the Labour leadership to rally the Conservative voters who delivered victory in the last four elections. They were won by boldness in the past. After drift and uncertainty they may yet be won by boldness again.
May 21, 1996 ... The Times: Britain
BRITAIN suffered an overwhelming defeat last night in its latest efforts to persuade its European partners to ease the embargo on beef exports and it may now be next year before the meat ban is lifted .
After a day of wrangling, veterinary officials from Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria and Luxembourg thwarted a European Commission move to end the embargo on gelatin, tallow and bull semen. France and the other six countries backed Britain but under the weighted voting system, the German group's 39 votes far exceeded the 26 needed to block any change of policy.
Last night the Government insisted that it would fight on for the lifting of an "unjust ban" and Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, will voice British indignation at a meeting of farm ministers in Brussels today. But under EU rules, no new proposal can be put to their council until the Commission formally decides on its next step, probably tomorrow.
Keith Meldrum, the Chief Veterinary Officer, put a brave face on the defeat, saying the meeting had made progress. "Not long ago it was one against 14. Now a certain number of countries are with us," he said. "It has been a long hard battle. This will be a battle of attrition and things will take a long time." It would probably take some days at least before a new proposal could be brought forward.
Sir David Naish, president of the National Farmers' Union, reacted with anger to the decision to keep the full ban in force. He said: "My reaction to the news is disappointment tinged with anger. "Scientists examined the situation and the overwhelming evidence is for lifting the ban but it still seems to be a political decision. There is nothing constructive coming from other ministers or vets, they are just saying no."
The strong resistance to lifting what amounts to a relatively minor aspect of the overall beef ban bodes ill for any British hopes of real progress in the near future. Continental officials believe it could be months, if not until well into next year, before the meat ban is lifted.
Mr Hogg had been hoping to spend today arguing for a next step in the gradual easing of the ban, but instead he will be trying again to persuade his European colleagues that the decision to double the number of cattle most at risk of "mad cow" disease to be slaughtered should at least bring some respite for the by-products.
The blocking vote also amounted to a blow for Franz Fischler, the Austrian EU Agriculture Commissioner, who is firmly on the British side. He ran headlong into the Germans and Austrians who said there was still far too much uncertainty over BSE and, in particular, over Britain's handling of the disease. German and Spanish officials were outspoken in their criticism of what they said was Britain's failure to undertake an acceptable programme of eradication. Officials said the latest proposal for slaughtering 80,000 cattle was still far short of what was needed.
British officials noted that Belgium and The Netherlands had indicated agreement with lifting the ban on gelatin and tallow, but opposed exempting bull semen. Those who argued to keep the ban on all three products focused not so much on the technical mattters such as processing conditions, as on alleged shortcomings in Britain's overall strategy towards BSE. Continental officials complained that a decade after the epidemic was identified, Britain still seemed to be reluctant to take the radical measures needed to eradicate the disease.
Britain contended, however, that the nature of the disease and its dwindling levels made it pointless to adopt the mass slaughter advocated by Germany That would lead to the destruction of millions of cattle without necessarily speeding the disappearance of the disease.
Ministers will now have to prepare for a wave of criticism from Euro-sceptics demanding retaliation. Graham Riddick, the Conservative MP for Colne Valley, said: "Playing the game like English gentlemen has failed. It is time we took the gloves off. It is an appalling state of affairs and humiliating to see British ministers and officials going cap in hand to Brussels."
And Sir Teddy Taylor said: "This is an insult to Britain after all the efforts that have been made. It only proves that we are totally powerless to tell Europe what to do. After we have spent £5 billion and sentenced thousands of cattle to their death, Brussels is not even prepared to make one minor change."
ALMOST half of teenagers have stopped eating British beef since the latest BSE scare, a study has found. The research indicated that seven out of ten teenagers had lost confidence in British beef since a new strain of Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease was disclosed. Five of the 11 sufferers linked to the new strain have been under 20.
The survey found that 72 per cent of teenagers were worried about British beef and 47 per cent had stopped eating it. Almost 23 per cent were eating less beef and 4 per cent had stopped eating meat altogether. Forty-one per cent said they would still eat beefburgers.
The survey was carried out for Watchdog Healthcheck on BBC1 tonight. Researchers interviewed 430 teenagers in Merthyr Tydfil, Dover, Newcastle upon Tyne, London and Glasgow.
Monday May 27 London Times:
THE twin modern scourges of oil pollution and "mad cow" disease have persuaded 16 Cistercian monks to break their silence and make a television appeal for tourists to visit their island home and save it from economic disaster. To meet the costs of running their monastery on the tiny island of Caldy off the Welsh coast, the monks need an income of about £300,000 a year.
Until now, most of the money has come from the 1,500 tourists who make the three-mile boat journey to the monastery each day and buy the monks' farm produce and perfume. But when the Sea Empress ran aground in February and spilt its cargo of thick crude oil across the beaches and coves used by summer visitors, the tiny island suffered an immediate and near catastrophic decline.
The monks' almost unending prayers appeared to go unanswered and after an anguished appraisal of their problems, it seemed that the only way to balance the books was to sell some of their herd of 100 prize cattle. But, even as they drew up their plans, the BSE scare rendered the stock almost worthless.
So Brother Robert, Abbot of Caldy, turned to the modern "pulpit" of television and with the help of an accountant, the monks prepared advertisements. The abbot said: "We are not really publicity people. We do not speak at all for the first four hours of the day. However, we have to live in the modern world." The monks watch only two hours of television a week, on Sunday afternoons. But the abbot said: "We may make an exception for our advert."
GERMANY'S tabloids fired a new salvo in the press war with Britain yesterday, accusing John Major of sowing the seeds of hatred. The attack, which was unusually personal, follows a week of grumbling and howling protest, most of it aimed at The Sun. Munich's Abend Zeitung was the latest to join the counter-offensive, making the obligatory shocked reference to The Sun's 20-point list of ways to irritate Germans and other continental Europeans.
"We Germans have come at just the right moment for the English. First we boycott British beef and now we want to grab the European championship on their very own island!" the newspaper said. The criticism was rare in that it singled out the Prime Minister for blame "head of government Major has secretly sown the hatred". The German press usually gives kinder treatment to the Prime Minister than to his predecessor; but the Abend Zeitung editorial may signal a sea-change. The tabloids have already started to be enthusiastic about Tony Blair.
Yesterday, however, the hero was the Bayern Munich striker Jürgen Klinsmann, who has apparently agreed to tuck into British beef to improve Anglo-German relations. "Klinsi is Germany's best ambassador on the island," the paper said.
Serious papers are also talking in martial metaphor. "Major is losing the beef war on the home front," trumpeted the Bonn General Anzeiger, referring to the public doubts of George Walden. The Süddeutsche Zeitung tried to switch the idiom towards the game of poker. "Major's declaration of war is emerging as a flop he was wrong to think that moderate Conservative MPs would remain loyal. The anti-Europe cause was not a trump card. Indeed George Walden could call the bluff."
There was thus a clear division between mass-market German papers which thought Klinsmann could rescue Anglo-German relations and those who favoured George Walden. The venerable Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called on Britain to show more consistency and refresh its memory.
"The United States has not imported British beef since 1989 because of BSE but nothing has been heard about 'obstructing' the Nato Council and there has been no sign of indignation in Washington. Could this be because only anger against the favourite enemy Europe promises improved popularity?" Politicians lined up to express their regret at the British campaign. Karl Lamers, the Christian Democrat foreign affairs expert, told Focus magazine: "The British are making a big mistake; they are confusing Germany with Europe." British threats, he said, were unrealistic. Britain would not let things come to a test of strength, which it would lose.
BRITAIN stepped up its "beef war" with Europe yesterday, using the national veto 12 times to scupper measures that would normally have sailed through. But as ministers blocked everything that came before them in Brussels, the man in charge of the Cabinet response admitted that it could be six years before all Britain's cattle were free of "mad cow" disease.
Roger Freeman was later forced to issue a statement insisting that he had not meant to suggest that the beef export ban could last six years, but his remarks added to the confusion over the Government's policy and how long it would be enforced. At the same time, a former minister renewed his warning that he would wipe out the Government's Commons majority if John Major turned the beef campaign into a wider battle against Europe.
Robin Cook, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, also urged ministers to avoid "the language of xenophobia and jingoism" over beef, but he nevertheless cautiously threw Labour's support behind the policy of non-cooperation. Ministers, however, rebuffed his demand to be consulted. In his Times article, Mr Walden accuses Mr Major of "demeaning" the country and says the Government's unseemly stance will rebound on a Prime Minister "who felt weak enough to succumb to his own pique and to petty-nationalistic pressures".
The sense of uncertainty over how far the EU would be expected to bend remained yesterday, however, when Mr Freeman told BBC Radio that while the Government was not "setting deadlines", it did want a "timescale for implementation in the framework agreement that it is seeking". Mr Freeman one of three ministers on obstruction duty in Brussels had earlier said that the policy was not "anti-German, anti-French, anti-Italian or anti-European. We are saying there is a crisis in the British beef industry."
Asked how long that could take, he said: "It won't happen in the short term. It certainly is not months. Because of the gestation period, it could take four, five, six years. It may not be possible to say when the UK will be wholly BSE-free."
He accepted that some countries may refuse to take British beef "until the last BSE cow has been killed". But while it might not be practical to persuade every country in the world to take British beef as early as some others, the EU was preventing Britain trading anywhere at all.
BRITAIN'S attempt to punish its European partners for their refusal to ease the beef crisis shifts into top gear this week with a series of moves aimed at disrupting the day-to-day affairs of the European Union.
Initiatives designed to limit the spread of Aids, assist refugees in Asia and Latin America, protect the environment and boost the efficiency of the single market are expected to run into the sand today as Britain drives home its policy of non-cooperation.
Later, Britain will have to decide whether to thwart longstanding attempts by finance ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, to implement measures against EU budget fraud. Under BSE "war rules", should Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, veto a regulation giving EU inspectors powers to carry out cross-frontier checks in member states on anyone suspected of dishonest use of EU funds? As a leader in the fight against multibillion-pound fraud, Britain has been keen to promote the measure that would allow Brussels officials to enter premises unannounced, accompanied by local police.
British officials were uncertain yesterday whether Mr Clarke would be obliged to block the measure, which will be reviewed by finance ministers next month as farm ministers thrash out the "mad cow" ban in an adjacent room. "Britain has been rather eager for these inspections," an official said. "A veto will show just how silly this campaign is."
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey, the Minister for Overseas Development, is expected today to halt EU programmes to combat Aids in the Third World, assist Asian and Latin American refugees and protect the environment. At the same time, Roger Freeman, the Public Service Minister, will be attending a Brussels ministerial council at which he is expected to resist a decision on measures aimed at streamlining the single market, another area favoured by Britain.
While EU officials have been working on ways to limit the damage from the British offensive, London has launched a counter-offensive against the publicity that BSE and its blocking campaign have earnt in the continental media. In newspaper articles published in several countries, Mr Rifkind explained that Britain wanted a "mature, level-headed approach to dealing with the beef issue, not one based on misplaced hysteria". The Brussels daily Le Soir published his article alongside an editorial denouncing Britain's campaign as counterproductive and potentially dangerous.
CABINET confusion over the beef crisis became apparent yesterday as ministers sent out conflicting signals on how to force an end to the export ban. The Government moved swiftly to "correct" a suggestion by Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, that Britain would press for a precise timetable for the lifting of a ban before ending its campaign of non-cooperation with Europe.
Less than 24 hours after Mr Rifkind floated the idea of a timetable, the suggestion was ruled out by Roger Freeman, the minister co-ordinating Britain's campaign of non-cooperation. He said: "We have said we want a framework. We don't want a detailed timetable that inevit ably by a certain date certain things must happen." Mr Rifkind said at the weekend that Britain was campaigning for "an agreed strategy which will provide for the lifting of the rest of the ban and the questions of timetable obviously will be part of these discussions".
Although senior Tories dismissed suggestions of a rift, the difference between the ministers was seized upon by John Redwood, the former Cabinet minister, who led Euro-sceptic demands for an agreed timetable before Britain ended non-cooperation.
Mr Redwood, visiting farmers in Somerset, said: "Farmers and people in the meat business would expect a timetable for the remaining threat to their jobs and businesses to be lifted before the Government resumes normal co-operation with Europe."
The British tactics are designed to force the EU to ease the beef ban imposed two months ago because of fears about mad cow disease. An emergency meeting is scheduled for next week in Luxembourg. "What we're trying to do is to explain clearly the urgency of the situation and the need to make some progress," said British Deregulation Minister Roger Freeman, a leader in fighting the ban.
"Hopefully our colleagues in Europe will concentrate their minds on the problem," he told reporters after blocking four decisions at a meeting on the EU's internal market. At a separate meeting, Britain's minister for overseas development, Baroness Linda Chalker, vetoed eight proposals that had the backing of her 14 EU counterparts.
European ministers downplayed the impact of the vetoes, stressing that Britain supports the substance of the proposals, which could be approved within the year. "We made good progress with our work in preparing decisions that will be made at a later date," said Italy's deputy foreign minister, Rino Serri, who chaired the development meeting.
Still, several participants criticized Britain for obstructing decisions aimed at helping EU businesses and development aid programs. "I personally find it very regrettable," said Mario Monti, the commissioner who oversees the single EU market.
Tuesday's ministerial sessions were the first since Prime Minister John Major announced Britain would obstruct decision-making until the EU relaxed the ban and agreed on a clear plan to lift it entirely.
EU nations have refused to soften the beef ban despite a determination by scientists that it was safe to exempt three cattle products - tallow, gelatin and semen. Both British ministers told their colleagues that Britain has already enforced more than adequate safeguards to eliminate any health risks from British cattle infected with mad cow disease.
Several nations led by Germany have demanded a tougher program to destroy British cattle at risk for the disease and restore public trust in beef before they will relax the ban. Britain set off the beef crisis March 20 when it announced a probable link between the cattle
disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and a fatal human malady, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The EU responded a week later by banning British beef exports.
JOHN MAJOR'S confrontation with Europe started to backfire on him yesterday when a former minister threatened to wipe out the Government's Commons majority in protest at his "silly and cynical" approach. George Walden said he was not prepared to be squeezed into a Little Englander straitjacket by a government riding a patriotic high horse, nor could he be associated with a "petty-minded nationalist party".
The Government would be at the mercy of the Ulster Unionists if the former Education Minister were to resign the party whip, and his remarks reinforced the Conservatives' determination to be ready for an autumn general election even though the Prime Minister would still prefer to wait until May. Conservative leftwingers' concerns about the beef "war" were meanwhile underlined by Jacques Santer, the European Commission President, who said that the British tactics would be self-defeating.
Mr Santer insisted that he would not give in to demands for a timetabled programme to lift the ban on beef exports and said: "I am very concerned about the, perhaps, anti-European atmosphere and climate in the UK. I am also concerned about an anti-British atmosphere between the 14 other member states. I don't think it is very good for the UK to be isolated in a matter related to public health."
And the latest twist to the crisis coincided with fears that Mad Cow Disease might still be in the food chain, despite all the Government's sanctions aimed at reversing the beef ban.
Meanwhile the Minister of Agriculture has promised an investigation into so-called "private kills" under a loophole in the current regulations.
Yesterday a British expeditionary force crossed the Channel and established contact with the enemy. The enemy was surprised and took heavy casualties. It retreated to lick wounds of hilarity and amazement. The day went to our boys. Thanks be to God and St George.
The first engagement of the Great Beef War left a number of corpses on the battlefield. There will now be no further moves on Aids in the Third World, no help to Asian refugees and no steps to cut red tape for small firms. Ahead lie bolder horizons. British ministers will next fight efforts to curb Euro-fraud. They will veto a plan to counter drug dealing and improve liaison between police forces. With this salient secured, John Major may next commit his divisions against reforms to the common agricultural policy and a wider European Union. Europhobia is coursing his veins. The howls of the tabloids ring in his ears. No foreigner is safe from the thin red line of heroes when veto is in the air.
Never was it more true that politics is war by other means. The British Cabinet faces an enemy, has an objective and (we assume) has a war plan. The enemy is made up of the member governments of the European Union. The objective is ending the ban on British beef . The war plan is a secret, but Downing Street confirms that there is a war cabinet and a secretariat in place. Hostilities have been brought forward from next month's Florence summit. Operation Moo is under way.
The first threat to any plan comes not from the enemy but from Generals Mishandling and Hindsight. They have their uses. Back in March, when the BSE story broke, the Government found British beef instantly banned by the French, Dutch, Belgians, Portuguese and five German states. These bans were illegal. They were imposed by the relevant authorities with obvious glee, supported by farm lobbyists eager to wipe out competition. (This has proved counter-productive: even farm lobbyists can make mistakes.) Given the limited nature of the "provocation", the bans were a gross abuse of the collective unity of the common agricultural policy.
All trade bans are evil. They are usually imposed by governments to prove their virility to some interest group. But some may be necessary evils. I suggested in March a swift retaliatory ban on continental beef , to bloody the noses of continental producer interests and to level the field for subsequent court action. If other governments chose gunboat diplomacy to exploit Britain's tentative (and honest) scientific research into BSE, the best reply was more gunboat diplomacy. A British ban against a country in which Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is more prevalent than in Britain (such as Germany) would be as defen sible as Germany's ban against Britain. The fiasco could have gone to the European Court and awaited the outcome, with both sides bleeding.
Mr Major bided his time and had to watch mortified as the rest of Europe marshalled its forces against him. He retaliated only last week, and after the failure of the veterinary committee to lift the ban on British beef by-products. He eventually declared war over tallow and semen. That beats even the strange war of my namesake's ear as an absurd casus belli.
European delegates are meant to gasp as Roger Freeman, Lynda Chalker and Peter Oppenheim patrol the Brussels committee rooms reading out their BSE message, like gay rights demonstrators at an Anglican synod. The foreign ministers are expected to crawl home and plead with their farm lobbies to see reason and welcome British beef back into their freezers. I am at a loss to see why they should. French and German beef can be sold in Britain, but their producers are protected from reciprocal competition. If I were a continental farmer, I would not give an inch. I would pour cash into my consumer groups and lobbyists, insisting that British beef is unsafe and always will be, until every British cow is a cinder and every British farm is set aside for rambling.
Non-cooperation may be magnificent to the château generals of Downing Street, but it is not what I call war. The engagement seems phoney. It smacks of Tweedledum and Tweedledee: "Let's fight till six, and then have dinner." Cohorts of Eurocrats must be smirking behind their hands. As for the war plan, its course seems indeterminate. The "framework" demanded by Britain of the Council of Ministers for ending the ban is unlikely to help British beef back onto world markets. Yet its compensation cost of £2.4 billion is indefensible. This cannot make sense. Such money would be better spent on marketing, when the hue and cry has died down, than on slaughter.
Hostilities in the beef war were not opened by a scientist setting out a conundrum. They began with a French customs officer ripping apart a British beef lorry without legal authority. That is what sent British forces into Belgium yesterday. They have gone as fools. They had better come back as heroes.
SIMLA, Colo. (May 11, 1996 3:41 p.m. EDT) -- As the barbecue season unfolds across America, the low-priced steaks sizzling on backyard grills are the despair of producers at the opposite end of the food chain, the nation's ranchers.
"We cut costs down to the point where isn't anything left to cut," said Glenn Benjamin, whose broad-brimmed cowboy hat failed to conceal a furrowed brow.
While his younger brother, Lee, weighed yearling heifers and steers before hauling them to summer grazing land, the rancher listed the cost-cutting measures taken at his family's 7,700-acre ranch here: no summer hired help, no tagging of calves and no conditioning shots for calves prior to shipping to feedlots this fall.
With prices paid to ranchers at a 10-year low, "prices are lower than costs of production for 95 percent of cow-calf producers," estimates Chuck Lambert, economist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a Denver-based group that represents 250,000 cattle ranchers.
Nationwide, beef sales are the largest revenue source for agriculture. Here, in the wide open spaces of America's cattle country, rock-bottom beef prices are rippling through local economies: ranchers are postponing bank payments and purchases of tractors, pickup trucks and fencing lumber.
"Bankers are starting to sweat," said Jim Taylor, a ranch real-estate broker in Billings, Mont.
In Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, drought has compounded the effect of low prices. There, farmers are selling off their herds, keeping prices low through the summer and eroding the tax base of ranching counties.
"In some rural counties, livestock taxes account for half of the taxes," said Al Schneberger, executive director of the New Mexico Cattlegrowers Association, a private group. "Herd liquidations hurt schools, roads, libraries, ambulance services."
"I've been talking to people who remember the 1930s -- the Government coming out paying $8 a head, digging a hole, and shooting the cow," said Schneberger, a rancher from Albuquerque. "I wonder if we are not so far away from that now."
Historically, beef prices have followed 10-year cycles of price dips and rises.
Overproduction, the past culprit for collapsing prices, is at work today. Beef production through the third week in April was 24 percent higher than during the same period in 1993, a recent peak price year, according to the beef association.
At the same time, Americans are grilling far fewer steaks than 20 years ago.
In 1976 annual per capita beef consumption peaked at 94.5 pounds. In the 1990s, it has stagnated at around 66 pounds. It is unclear whether Britain's mad cow disease will have any effect on the consumption of American beef.
Ranchers like to blame today's plunging beef prices on floods of cattle from Mexico and Canada, on price gouging by supermarkets and on monopolistic prices of meatpacking companies.
But last year, imports accounted for just 2.2 percent of the 104 million cattle in the nation's herds. During the first quarter of this year, imports were 19 percent below the same period of 1993.
Ranchers complain that while they face foreclosures, IBP Inc., the world's largest meatpacker, has nearly tripled its profits since 1993, reaching $256 million in 1995. Next month, a committee appointed by Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman is to report on the meatpacking industry, where IBP and three other companies hold 82 percent of the market.
But defenders of the meatpackers -- and they are few in barbed wire country -- note that the big four slaughterhouse companies enjoyed the same market share in 1993, when prices were at a peak. A large part of the profits, those defenders add, stem from record beef production levels, which keep processing plants operating near capacity.
As for grocery stores, retail prices have gradually bumped downward and are expected to stay low during the summer, the nation's peak beef-eating season.
In tribute to the barbecue culture, beef sales during Memorial Day weekend are 25 percent higher than daily averages during the rest of the year.
But low cattle prices are not the only cloud over the Benjamin ranch, an 80-year-old homestead in bare, mustard-colored plains 60 miles southeast of Denver.
"Feedcake went up 50 percent in six months, from $150 a ton in October to $220 a ton now," Ileta Benjamin said, as her two sons herded the balky yearlings into a weighing stall.
The nation's cattle business is the largest single user of grain, largely corn in the shape of cakes or pellets for winter feed. But last year's drought created a corn shortage, pushing corn prices up to a 20-year high this spring.
This year's corn crop is expected to bounce back to normal, swelling by 27 percent over last year's level, to 9.4 billion bushels, according to the Agriculture Department.
To ease the squeeze in an election year, President Clinton announced measures on April 30 to allow ranchers this summer to graze cattle and to cut hay on land previously set aside under a federal soil conservation program. With more grass available, ranchers would be able to reduce corn purchases.
As money from the ranch has dwindled, Lee Benjamin now earns most of its income from a job appraising farmland, and a part-time job his wife has started in Denver.
"The only way for a person to get into ranching today is to inherit it or marry it," Lee Benjamin said glumly from the dusty cab of a battered pickup.
In a business affected by dozens of variables, economists see two bright spots that may speed ranching's recovery from its cyclical trough.
This year's corn crop is expected to be strong. And beef exports are expected to grow.
Once dismissed as negligible, U.S. beef exports increased sevenfold in value in 15 years. In 1995, they added up to $3.3 billion, about 11 percent of the wholesale value of domestic beef production.
Although sales to Mexico fell by half last year, strong sales to Russia and South Korea helped American beef exports post an overall increase of 18 percent.
Mrs. Benjamin is hedging her bets about ranching's recovery.
Five years ago, four men worked full-time running this ranch, which averages about 400 head of mixed-breed cattle. Today, the same operation is run by Mrs. Benjamin and the ranch manager, Bob Blake. Her sons give occasional help.
"Two years ago, I told the hired men that they were taking the gravy off my income," the 67-year-old ranch owner recalled. "Today, I'm doing what the hired men used to do -- branding, fencing, opening the gates."
Copyright © 1996 Nando.net
Copyright © 1996 N.Y. Times News Service
BRUSSELS (May 20, 1996 08:47 a.m. EDT) - The European Union might take a first step on Monday towards easing a worldwide ban on British beef exports if London accepts strict terms and makes extra efforts to curb mad cow disease, EU officials said.
The EU's Standing Veterinary Committee resumed examination of a European Commission proposal, based on advice from the World Health Organisation, to allow sales of beef by-products gelatine, tallow and semen.
The committee, made up of senior national officials, suspended discussions last Wednesday to allow the Commission, the 15-nation EU's executive, time to amend its proposal and for Britain to present details of further measures to combat the fatal cattle brain disease.
"We believe there is every justification for voting in favour of the proposal," a Commission spokesman said, adding that a gradual relaxation of the ban was in line with the unanimous approach agreed by EU farm ministers on April 30.
Britain was due to give the committee details of plans to double a programme to slaughter to up to 80,000 cattle, which may have been at risk of developing the disease, known medically as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
"I hope we are going to get a decision today," Britain's chief veterinary officer, Keith Meldrum, said on entering the meeting which was expected to last all day.
Meldrum declined to give details of the extra British measures before presenting them to the committee.
Regarding the beef by-products, Britain would have to ensure gelatine and tallow were treated at high temperatures, remove certain animal parts, such as the brain and intestine, and list authorised meat processing plants.
Germany and Austria remain strongly opposed to an immediate easing of the ban, saying that Britain's ability to trace and eliminate all animals at risk to BSE remained uncertain.
"We hope there will be no change today," Werner Zwingemann, head of the German delegation, told reporters. "There is still conflicting scientific evidence," he added.
But other countries, which have been sceptical about British measures to stamp out the disease, may be changing their views.
Dutch veterinary official Stan van der Meys welcomed Britain's readiness to extend the slaughter programme.
"It was a helpful contribution," he told reporters. "It's important that we have a good (British) plan not just to stabilise but to eradicate the disease."
The Dutch government ordered on March 27, the same day as the EU banned British beef exports, the destruction of 64,000 calves imported from Britain and disposal of the carcasses to ensure they did not enter the food chain.
If the veterinary officials did not support of an easing of the British ban, the proposal would be referred to EU farm ministers, who hold a regular monthly meeting later on Monday, the Commission spokesman said.
The officials were also unlikely to vote before consulting ministers in what is seen as a highly political decision.
The EU banned British beef exports at the end of March to calm public fears after the British government said there was a likely link between BSE and the deadly human brain disorder, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
MINISTERS voiced hopes last night that the ban on British beef would be eased next week in spite of a suspension of talks in Brussels. Europe's scientific veterinary experts decided not to push plans for a partial end to the ban to a vote after eight hours of negotiations because of objections from Germany and other countries to an immediate lifting of the embargo.
The further delay infuriated Conservative Euro-sceptics last night. But after a day on which President Chirac swung his support behind the partial lifting of the ban during his visit to London, the Government said that important progress had been made. Officials spoke of growing support for Britain's position and expressed confidence that the ban on gelatine and other by-products would go on Monday after Britain has provided more details of its measures to combat BSE.
The Cabinet will review the suspension this morning but informed sources were last night ruling out any retaliatory measures. "We are slowly getting there by negotiation and this is not the time to up the ante," they said. After the talks Keith Meldrum, the British chief veterinary officer, said he was confident that Britain would be able next week to provide the guarantees that other states were requiring before giving the nod to the proposal from the European Commission to exempt the products from the ban. "I'm very optimistic," he said. "We are a lot nearer than we were two months ago." His view was shared, in more cautious terms, by officials from other states.
In a Commons debate on agriculture, Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, said there were some technical issues that needed to be sorted out but added that "good progress" had been made at the talks.
Britain must offer precise details on how it will monitor the manufacture of the by-products and abide by strict conditions on temperature treatment and other matters required by the Commission. Some Continental officials said approval would be tied to the presentation of Britain's full programme for eradicating BSE.
A PLAN for lifting the worldwide ban on British beef by-products was put forward by the European Commission yesterday, but there were strong doubts it would be accepted by EU states.
Franz Fischler, the Agriculture Commissioner, won the approval of his colleagues for making the necessary formal proposal on gelatine, tallow and semen. Britain would be required to comply with strict processing conditions for the by-products. The Commission agreed that once these were in place and monitored the ban could be lifted.
However, it seems unlikely that the move will be endorsed by the veterinary committee, the voice of the member states, which meets next Wednesday and must vote by qualified majority before the Commission can start easing the ban.
The Commission's move was welcomed by Downing Street yesterday as a move in the right direction. The Ministry of Agriculture said it was "an encouraging step" but cautioned against too much optimism. Ian Gardiner, policy director of the National Farmers' Union, said: "Our problem for some time has not been with Brussels, which has tried to be helpful, but with other EU member states. There is a very real danger that their representatives on the veterinary committee will turn down even this limited relaxation of the ban."
Germany, France, Italy and other member states remain opposed to any softening of the draconian restrictions on British beef and by-products until more scientific evidence is produced to confirm their safety. With domestic beef markets badly hit, continental governments are reluctant to do anything which could fuel further consumer fears over the meat.
Jochen Borchert, the German farm minister, said earlier this week that his country would oppose any easing of the ban on the by-products for the time being. Philippe Vasseur, his French counterpart, had said that any such move would be premature and could trigger a consumer boycott of all French beef.
At the same time, European leaders are anxious to defuse a crisis that has helped to spur anti-European feeling in Britain and further strained London's already difficult relations with the rest of the EU. They want to calm the dispute before the EU summit in Florence on June 22, but are unlikely to agree to a suggestion from John Major that they convene a special summit to tackle the BSE problem before then.
In London, senior officials played down suggestions that Mr Major was on the point of demanding such a summit. But if the Commission's recommendation is not accepted next week, attitudes in the Government are certain to harden and Mr Major could be expected by his colleagues to take a firmer line and demand a summit.
It was confirmed yesterday that he had written to Jacques Santer, the Commission President, suggesting a summit would be an option if member states refused to lift the ban. Herr Fischler bases his case for beef by-products on a finding by the World Health Organisation, endorsed by EU scientific experts, that they carry no risk of contamination provided they are subject to specific treatment. If the Commission proposal were to be approved next week, the ban could be lifted "as quickly as the British authorities get the controls and procedures in place", a spokesman for Herr Fischler said.
The Meat and Livestock Commission said last night that a lifting of the ban would boost confidence in British beef products. It estimated the value of gelatine exports last year at £29 million, tallow £4 million and semen £857,000.
Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, gave the undertaking, which could lead to a wider slaughter than the selective cull of 42,000 cattle proposed by London, as part of a formula agreed by EU farming ministers that would allow the export ban "to be progressively lifted".
No timetable was given after the two days of intensive talks but Britain hopes the process will begin with a review next week of the ban on gelatine and tallow, both beef by-products. The Irish and several continental ministers noted that lifting the ban would be a long process and one doubted that even the by-products could be cleared for some time yet.
The EU ministers welcomed as "a step in the right direction" a plan outlined by Mr Hogg to slaughter up to 42,000 cattle identified as most likely to develop bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
But the ministers added a string of requirements, calling notably for additional measures particularly aimed at herds where a significant number of cases of BSE had been detected. This appeared to reflect German and French demands repeatedly dismissed as unacceptable by Britain for the slaughter of all the animals in herds that have had a high incidence of BSE and their replacement with fresh stock.
There was, however, no timetable for lifting the ban. Ivan Yates, the Irish Agriculture Minister, said he assumed it would still be in effect in the autumn at least. By agreeing to join the other 14 members states in the farm council's formal conclusions, Mr Hogg committed Britain to joining the Commission in investigating additional measures that went beyond London's slaughter policy. Asked about the French proposal for wider slaughter in affected herds, Mr Hogg said Britain was "prepared to talk along these lines".
On the question of when Britain would commit itself to a selected cull, currently in proposal form, Mr Hogg said the issue was part of a process that was "moving in parallel" with the steps towards lifting the ban. He said Britain had accepted the request to consider stronger measures and these would be examined over coming weeks. Only France, he said, was pressing for the slaughter of whole herds that had suffered a BSE outbreak.
Philippe Vasseur, the French Farm Minister, said Britain seemed to have changed its tune at Luxembourg after talking tough since the ban was imposed. "We felt political goodwill. I felt it since yesterday. There was no will to harden things," he said. "The English have understood that lifting the embargo is less simple than they had thought."
Earlier a meeting of veterinary experts from member states had dismissed Britain's slaughter plan as "inadequate" by a vote of 14 to 1. The lone vote in favour came from Kevin Taylor, Britain's Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer. The veterinary officials said the proposal lacked detail, offered inadequate controls and did not contain a reliable method for identifying animals at the highest risk of developing BSE.
FARMERS and meat exporters launched a legal challenge to the European Union's ban on British beef yesterday. Their High Court action came as the Government's planned slaughter of cattle older than 30 months ran into deeper trouble.
Mr Justice Turner said the challenge required a ruling from the European Court of Justice on whether the export ban, imposed after the BSE scare, was disproportionate and a misuse of power under the Treaty of Rome. The challenge was initiated by the National Farmers' Union, but the judge allowed the International Meat Trade Association and the British Association of Sheep Exporters to make their own appeals because of the knock-on effect on all meat exports. The NFU will lodge its appeal with the European Court next week, arguing that the ban, which has halted exports worth £600 million a year, was illegally imposed in an attempt to allay consumer panic and not because of a scientifically proven risk to human health.
At home, the cattle cull may not get fully under way for a further week or more. Livestock auctioneers are threatening legal action because they say the scheme is weighted unfairly against them. Supermarkets have caused further delay by refusing to take beef from abattoirs that also slaughter the older cattle.
Martin Burtt, a farmer in North Yorkshire who chairs the NFU's livestock committee, said: "It is frustrating. We should be up and running by now, but nothing is happening. The Ministry of Agriculture is behaving like Pontius Pilate and washing its hands of the whole mess.
"We need a central co-ordinating body, such as the Meat and Livestock Commission, to take charge of the allocation of animals for slaughter, otherwise we could face chaos if everyone offers their animals at once. But the Government says it is up to the industry to sort out its own problems." The £630 million slaughter scheme should have begun on Wednesday. The Intervention Board, the government agency administering it, has licensed 105 auction markets as collection points and 44 abattoirs to slaughter them.
Scotland yesterday became the only place in Britain to report the slaughter of animals older than 30 months, at an abattoir in Larkhall. Slaughterhouses and markets elsewhere said they still had no clear instructions on how to take part in the scheme.
Auctioneers are furious because they calculate that farmers will get up to £100 an animal more in compensation if they send over-age bullocks directly to an abattoir than if they send them to slaughter via an auction market and are paid liveweight.
Jim Watson, managing director of Midland Marts, which owns the Banbury market in Oxfordshire, the biggest in the country, said: "This is grossly unfair to auction markets which are already in dire financial straits. We are taking legal advice and are considering slapping an injunction on the Ministry of Agriculture unless they agree to top up the liveweight payment."
Tony Baldry, the junior Agriculture Minister, said that there were still many logistical problems to overcome. The biggest bottleneck was limited rendering plant capacity.
Copyright: London Times
Organo-phosphate chemicals are widely used as pesticides in agriculture, horticulture, fish farming, forestry and veterinary medicine and in the home for medicated shampoos, fly-sprays, and flame retardant clothing or bedding, Mark Purdey said.
He said farmers were forced to use phosnet - a blend of organo-phosphates and base of the drug thalidomide - in the 1980s to combat warble fly infestation.
The most vigorous argument for the possible involvement of organophosphorus(OP) compounds in BSE is made by Dr Douglas Latto, Chairman of the British Safety Council. He points out that that "Mark Purdey showed that the highest incidence of BSE has occurred in areas worst hit by warble fly" (for which sheep dip containing OP is used). He argues that the role of OP is not directly in interacting with prions, but in weakening the immune system, and make the cow's central nervous system more susceptible to the action of prions, and he has called for their use to be discontinued. He can be contacted through the British Safety Council's journal "Safety Management", 70 Chancellors Road, London W6 9RS [Tel: +44 (0)181 741 1231]
There is epidemiological evidence linking BSE with warble fly. Circumstantial evidence exists linking warble fly treatment using OPs with BSE. In the UK BSE appeared after the introduction of compulsory warble fly treatment. The major product used was called Phosmet. In Europe the UK has the highest incidence of BSE followed by Switzerland which, coincidentally, was the only other european country to use Phosmet to any extent.
B. Ballantyne and TC Marrs
The clinical & experimental toxicology of organophosphates and carbamates. Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd (Oxford) 1992 (640p).
FROM CHARLES BREMNER IN BRUSSELS BRITAIN put the brakes on the EU machine yesterday, blocking its first action at ministerial level while the continental media succumbed to a tide of indignation over London's beef campaign and the bellicose chorus from the British popular press. A taste of the obstruction to come was delivered to a ministerial council that was to approve measures on civil protection in man-made and natural disasters. David Bostock, Britain's deputy EU ambassador, gave the gathering an announcement that is to become ritual as long as Britain's beef is subject to an open-ended export ban. "The British Government is obliged to approach today's agenda in the wider context of the crisis on BSE," he was quoted as saying. That meant Britain would refuse to endorse all three items which were due for unanimous approval. Britain's envoys and ministers will thus be injecting beef into every decision-making forum, from foreign policy to transport. Although Britain had long been reluctant to approve EU co-operation on civil protection, it had been expected to go along with the measures. The impact was described by Franco Barberi, an Italian secretary of state and chairman yesterday, as "paralysis". "I am very disappointed," he said. Meanwhile, Stephen Wall, the Ambassador, told his colleagues on Coreper, the acronym for the powerful ambassadorial council that runs EU business, that Britain would not sign an accord on company insolvency and would withhold support from preparations for the Europol convention. The final go-ahead for the EU police agency was to be one of the main items at the EU summit in Florence on June 21. Britain will attend ministerial meetings in Brussels next week on the single market and development, but again will refrain from endorsing any decisions. The scale of Britain's action seemed to have sunk in across Europe yesterday, generating a backlash of public anger. While politicians railed at what they depicted as counter-productive folly, commentators voiced shock at the virulence of the anti-continental sentiments coming from the tabloid press and some British politicians. The German press was especially stung by what it reported as an anti-German campaign in Britain, complete with every caricature from wartime days. Frankfurter Rundschau said that Mr Major was panicking. Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung said the Prime Minister's ultimatum was really "a cry for help, aimed at Europe". In Brussels, La Libre Belgique said the tabloids seemed to be "sowing the same seeds of madness which led Germany to Nazism".
Britain to stonewall Europe
BY MICHAEL HORNSBY, AGRICULTURE CORRESPONDENT A GROUP of abattoir owners and farmers won permission in the High Court yesterday to mount a legal challenge to the centrepiece of the Government's strategy for restoring consumer confidence in beef. The Quality Meat and Live stock Alliance, which has some 50 members, contends that the Government acted unlawfully in banning the sale for food of cattle that are more than 30 months old at slaughter. Lawyers for the group say the Government has failed to show there is any risk to health from eating these older cattle, the only ground for banning them under the Food Safety Act. Mr Justice Carnwath said: "It seems to me that there is certainly an arguable point." The full application for judicial review of the ban is likely to be heard in July. The challenge, if successful, would throw the Government's policy for dealing with the crisis in the beef industry into even greater disarray. It has also opened rifts within the farming community. Richard Macdonald, director-general designate of the National Farmers' Union, said: "This challenge is not helpful and we do not support it. Culling animals older than 30 months is politically and commercially important as a solution to our problems." But Ewen Cameron, presi dent of the Country Landowners' Association and a leading dairy farmer, said the legal move could be useful if it increased pressure on the Government to exempt slow-maturing beef cattle from the cull. "We believe it is extremely important that this very wholesome beef should be excluded from the ban." The alliance estimates that 800,000 older dairy cows and 500,000 prime beef cattle will be withdrawn from the market and destroyed this year under the scheme, at a cost to the taxpayer of more than £700 million. Richard North, an adviser to the group, said: "Farmers are having to destroy perfectly sound meat and perfectly good animals. Very shortly we could be facing a serious beef shortage in Britain." The ban on cattle older than 30 months was announced at the end of March after the disclosure by Stephen Dorrell, the Health Secretary, that some people might have contracted Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease the human equivalent of "mad cow" disease from eating beef infected with BSE.
Abattoirs' lawsuit on older cattle exposes rifts within farming community
BY ARTHUR LEATHLEY POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT SENIOR Labour figures sent out conflicting signals yesterday over how to react to the campaign of non-cooperation in Europe. As Tony Blair voiced muted support for the Government's position, colleagues expressed fears that Britain's action smacked of party-politicking. The Labour leader, visiting Rome, said he would back the Government's efforts to have the beef ban lifted. "The Government has embarked upon a strategy in which the national interest is now engaged. I will not undermine it, provided it is measured and lawful, and backed by a massive exercise in negotiation and diplomacy." At home, his colleagues emphasised that the Tories were trying to woo their Euro-sceptics. Baroness Blackstone, Labour's foreign affairs spokeswoman in the Lords, accused the Government of "indulging in the folly of going to war with Europe in order to placate the European sceptics in the Conservative Party". She asked Baroness Chalker of Wallasey, Overseas Development Minister, "whether we are going to war with the US, Australia and Canada, at least one of which banned British beef before the EU?" Gavin Strang, the Shadow Agriculture Minister, said: "There is a lot of suspicion and this extends beyond the Labour Party with regard to this Government's motives." Austin Mitchell, a Euro-sceptic Labour MP, thought the party's tactic "will be to pretend it is not happening because we don't want to be portrayed as the pro-Europe party even though we are".
Beef confusing issue for Labor Party
FROM CHARLES BREMNER IN BRUSSELS BRITISH officials yesterday dismissed suggestions that the Government would use its EU blocking campaign to obstruct the project for monetary union but they believe it could hold up business on some of the preparatory work. Technical preparations for EMU are gathering pace in Brussels and Frankfurt but no government decisions are imminent. The monetary committee, the team of senior finance officials in charge of the project, is continuing to meet under Sir Nigel Wicks, its British chairman. Britain's separate representative would be expected to note Britain's reservations on any decisions. If there is no solution to the beef crisis, Britain will probably withhold its endorsement next month of an interim report on the creation of a new exchange-rate mechanism to accompany the euro's launch, due in January 1999. Britain has already dissented from the scheme favoured by all the other states. If John Major turns the Florence summit into a debate on beef, as he threatens, he will presumably refuse to sign a planned joint statement on preparations for EMU. In the longer term, despite its opt-out from the project, Britain will be required to give assent to the framework for denominating bonds during the transition period and the design of the coinage that is due to be phased into circulation in six years' time. Although British blocking could hold up a decision on that, the matter could wait for a year or two. A British official said the beef crisis should be over long before such decisions became urgent.
Single European currency delay unlikely
Sir, How pleasing to find myself, for once, in full agreement with William Rees-Mogg ("Monty Python politics", May 23). And how dispiriting to find that this once great country is preparing to go to war under a banner inscribed TGS (tallow, gelatine and semen).
Has the Conservative Party, unlike our EU partners, learnt nothing from the history of the past 150 years? Are we for ever to be ruled by the ghosts of Lord Palmerston and jingoism as we march to the xenophobic drum-beat of Mrs Teresa Gorman and Mr John Townend? Have we lost all our equally traditional sense of the ridiculous?
My worst fear is that Mr Major's posturing may appear to pay off, that a lifting of the ban on TGS, which was anyway on the cards, will be claimed as a triumph of gunboat diplomacy and that the Germans and others will overlook the insults being heaped on them and try to help us. There could be nothing more shaming than to be forgiven by the grown-ups across the Channel for our childish tantrums.
1 Mountfort Terrace, N1.
Sir, Before this country rushes headlong into a pointless confrontation with its fellow European nations, ought the Prime Minister not to reflect one last time both on the causes of the present crisis and the only way it can be resolved?
The Times reported on March 21 a new and threatening discovery in respect of a relationship between BSE and CJD. Dr John Pattison, chairman of the committee advising the Government on BSE, said he had never seen the variant before, and was quoted as saying: "It is totally unpredictable, but at one extreme there is a risk of an epidemic."
Dr Robert Will, head of the CJD surveillance centre, stated: "I believe this is a new phenomenon. There is reason for major concern." The trusted Times doctor reminded us that CJD was highly infectious, adding: "I shall in future avoid all beef, whether roasted or minced, until scientists can be truly reassuring."
Finally, your Science Editor spoke of "smoking gun" evidence that pointed to a link between BSE and CJD. He noted that the incubation period of the disease could last for decades, concluding: "If the new form of CJD follows this pattern, it will be almost the middle of the next century before we can be sure that no more new cases will emerge."
No wonder people are worried.
At the heart of the beef crisis lies a fundamental lack of faith in the declarations of politicians. Four fifths of our beef exports go to other EU nations. EU consumers must be won over. This can be done only by telling the truth and from within the European Union respecting the justified fears of the consumer, whether German, Dutch or British. To paralyse the work of the Union will do nothing to whet their appetite for beef.
Dr. ANTHONY GLEES,
10 Hernes Road, Oxford.