Brussels clears way for end to beef war

BRUSSELS PAVED the way for the expected Anglo-French agreement on beef by making clear yesterday that British beef could be labelled with its country of origin.

The move ends days of confusion over the issue and removes one of the few remaining potential obstacles to a deal that should lead to the lifting of the embargo on British beef.

Both France and Germany have been pushing for labelling that clearly marks the UK product, a move the Government has not opposed.

But a potential problem has been the European Union's single-market rules, under which member states cannot insist on compulsory consumer labelling to identify the country of origin of imported products. This is to stop one nation using the information to steer consumers away from products rivalling their own meat.

But yesterday the European Commission said that the word British could be allowed if it referred to the approved Date-Based Export Scheme under which small quantities of UK beef are being exported.

A statement said that this information - usually seen only by wholesalers - "can be made available to the final consumer, for example, through a mark like `British XEL [export eligible] beef'".

The EC statement said: "It should be noted that this information is not a simple mark of national origin but an indication that the meat has been produced in accordance with the Date-Based Export Scheme in force in the UK."

The move was seen in Brussels as a clever way of getting France and Britain off the hook without concessions on either side. It means that most of the outstanding difficulties between France and the UK have been resolved. A document summarising the agreement between the two governments and the commission has been sent to national capitals, and Paris is thought to be largely content with assurances over the treatment of cattle which come from the same cohort as any cow born after 1996 which contracts BSE.

The one outstanding issue appears to be British plans to introduce diagnostic tests for BSE. Jean Glavany, the French agriculture minister, has written to his British counterpart, Nick Brown, raising a series of technical questions. The Government welcomed the commission's comments on labelling and one official said: "This does not affect the way the scheme is applied but if it helps the French, so much the better. We have nothing to hide from the French consumer."

Mr Brown rejected any suggestion that concessions had been given to the French.

"It has always been the British Government's intention that meat going through the Date-Based Export Scheme would be clearly labelled to ensure consumer choice as far as we can and also to ensure that the product is traceable within the industry," he said.

But he refused to be drawn on when the French ban would be lifted. "We are making very good progress and I hope are able to get this settled soon. We are not setting timetables for other people. We are trying to get this resolved through discussion."

The Conservative Party was quick to attack what it said was a compromise that let down British farmers. "I very much regret that a further concession has now been made," the opposition spokesman, Tim Yeo, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, beef farmers converged on Downing Street to protest at the beef-on-the-bone ban - but were turned away at the gates. The group of around 20, led by NFU member David Ashcroft bearing an ox heart, carried placards saying:"Don't rip the heart out of the British beef industry".

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones