Dover blockade fails but farmers continue protests over beef imports

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The Independent Online
Farmers continued to gather at British ports yesterday as part of their growing battle against cheap beef imports.

But their attempt to set up a blockade at Dover failed and five were arrested for obstructing the highway. A spokesman for Kent police said their vehicles had been impounded.

John Redwood, the Tory trade spokesman, voiced his sympathy for the farmers.

"The Conservative Party does not condone any illegal action but we quite sympathise with the strong stance the farmers are taking because they have been pushed beyond the limits by a Government which has failed to negotiate anything for them," he said.

About 20 tractors and cattle trailers turned round two miles from Dover's eastern docks after police warned them they too would be arrested if they went any further.

Only one tractor and cattle lorry made it to the port entrance, where they were blocked in by a police van.

Hugh Richards, 40, from Biddenden, Kent, condemned the police's "heavy handed tactics" but admitted the bid to halt traffic had failed. ``We've told our drivers to go home and we won't try this again."

In Stranraer, Scotland's main Irish ferry port, nearly 200 farmers gathered and hundreds more were expected overnight.

Jim Walker, a Dumfriesshire farmer, said up to 5,000 farmers and sympathisers had offered to come, but organisers did not want such a large crowd.

Peter Rogers, representing farmers in North Wales, said round-the-clock demonstrations at the port of Holyhead on Anglesey would continue. There was also picketing at the Lancashire port of Heysham at the weekend.