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the plot

This week John Major threatened to disrupt EU business until the beef ban imposed 8 weeks ago is lifted.

"Major goes to war with Europe", exclaimed the Guardian. "Britain throws down the gauntlet after 'betrayal' over beef", crowed the Telegraph. "Furious Major retaliates against beef ban", bellowed the Times, while the Independent evoked memories of the Falklands with "John Major does a Margaret Thatcher".

The Prime Minister, and a delighted band of Euro-sceptics. On Monday, the EU voted not to lift the ban on tallow, gelatin and bull semen, and the Government's patience ran out. On Tuesday it served notice that it would use its veto to block every decision it can unless the required majority of members starts allowing the export of British beef and beef products. Mr Major also announced that the Government would begin an emergency action for rulings against the ban at the European Court of Justice. "This is not how I like to do business within Europe", he told the Commons, "but I see no alternative."

"The Euro-sceptics'... interest in this sorry affair is the political hooligans' tribal instinct for a punch-up with Europe", opined the Independent , but the Times saw a chance for Major "to turn the vexed issue of beef into the clear question of who is John Bull". The Guardian warned that "Mr Major is letting loose a whirlwind which could put at hazard this country's relationship with Europe", but the Telegraph insisted that "if the Germans have their way, the ban on beef will be lifted only when we have none left". Meanwhile, Le Monde pointed out that "it was London, not Paris or Bonn, which initiated the crisis."

"There have been many times when Major needed to show his mettle, but this, unfortunately, was not one of them. He's taken an awful risk, and it's more to do with winning votes than preserving national interests."

What you shouldn't:

"Well, it's been 5 years since the Gulf. We could do with another scrap."

"John Major, eh? The spirit of Wellington lives on."

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