British vetoes threaten more Brussels chaos; THE BSE WAR

European debate: Minister admits possibility of split as efforts continue to defuse beef crisis trap Book locked to grid strap Book locked top grid
Click to follow
The Independent Online
The Government will escalate its disruption of European business on Monday in a desperate effort to secure a framework for the lifting of the beef ban.

A series of simultaneous European Council meetings are expected to dissolve into chaos as Britain blocks a total of 25 long-awaited measures.

New plans to cut back on fraud against the community budget and plans for Europol, a Europe-wide policing network are among the measures that Britain will block.

Britain has led the campaign for tighter measures against fraud in the European Union. Germany, in particular has pressed hard for the establishment of Europol, which it views as essential in the fight against international crime.

The European Commission's plan to make 1997 the year against racism will also be vetoed by Britain.

Douglas Hogg, the agriculture minister, the Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, the Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, the Home Secretary, Michael Howard and the employment minister, Eric Forth, will all head to Brussels and Luxembourg next week to lead the next phase of the campaign.

Mr Hogg will meet his European partners on Monday in a special session of agriculture ministers, when proposals for lifting the ban on gelatin, semen and tallow will again be discussed. Britain's hopes of securing a qualified majority in favour of lifting these elements of the ban will depend on backing from Germany and Austria.

Both countries have opposed easing the ban. But they are under strong pressure from the Jacques Santer, the European Commission President, to support the proposal, which has been tabled by the Commission.

Mr Santer has voiced concern that the beef crisis is escalating out of control. In Dublin on Thursday, he attacked the "anti-European and xenophobic" tone of the British press, as well as an "anti-British" stand in some European newspapers.

Should a clear decision on the three beef derivatives not be reached on Monday, the proposal to ease this section of the ban will, under EU rules, be implemented automatically by the European Commission.

However, ending the ban on the three beef derivatives will only provide brief comfort to the Prime Minister who is demanding a framework for lifting the entire ban. There was no sign yesterday that any progress will be made next week on such a framework, despite the new threats of disruption.

While Mr Hogg is meeting his partners on Monday, Mr Clarke will be meeting along the corridor with his fellow finance ministers. The Chancellor is expected to block three measures; in addition to vetoing new plans to fight fraud on the community budget, Mr Clarke will anger the Dutch by opposing plans for new VAT rules for cut flowers; to anger the Spanish, he will oppose a decision to back increased loans from the European Investment ban to Latin America and Asia.

In the social affairs council, Mr Forth plans to scupper the Commission's preparations for a European year against racism and plans to ensure women have equal opportunities in industry and commerce. Then, on Wednesday, Mr Howard is expected to veto up to 18 items on the agenda of the justice ministers' council, the most controversial being blocking the creation of Europol.

Comments