Eurocrats in retreat, heavy losses

From our frontline correspondents; Light and heavy ministerial detachments move in; 'Hopes high for Florence breakout'
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British forces struck a fresh blow for justice in the Great Beef War yesterday, launching a three-pronged offensive in Luxembourg. They shot down 25 European initiatives. Sadly, many of them were ones that Britain itself had launched. But war is hell, and friendly fire can be devastating.

The beef war, now in its second week, is proving increasingly hard for the Government as it is forced to inflict repeated casualties on its own feet. The price of semen, gelatine and tallow is high, but that has not deterred our forces.

Light and heavy ministerial detachments moved into Luxembourg as Kenneth Clarke, Douglas Hogg and Eric Forth fought the second battle of the Ardennes. Surrounded by hostile bureaucratic forces, they were repeatedly ordered to surrender; but as with the gallant Americans who were caught at Bastogne in 1944, the defiant answer came back: "Nuts!"

Anti-fraud laws, the fight against racism and the elections in Bosnia have had little in common until yesterday. But one-by-one ministers moved into the front line and stopped all these advances in their tracks. Correspondents in the field report that the British Euro-sceptic Expeditionary Force is hitting back in strength.

Apart from a phrasebook listing numerous ways to say "no", our boys have the benefit of Whitehall's latest piece of beef war technology. This is a 121-page study of eradication measures for BSE, intended to stun even the most dogged Continental bureaucrats into an early surrender.

And today, military censors allow us to reveal, Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, will engage the enemy at a meeting of justice ministers, also in Luxembourg. He will take on proposals to combat the illegal employment of immigrants and to improve anti-terrorist tactics. He will also block the 1997 drugs unit budget of the Europol police agency. The War Office in London expects a famous victory.

Further engagements are confidently expected. The Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, and Mr Hogg will be striking at the heart of enemy territory today, visiting Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Berlin this morning and Jacques Santer, President of the Commission, in Brussels, this afternoon, followed by further meetings in Bonn, Paris and Rome. War Office sources describe these moves as a "charm offensive".

How long will the war continue? Our staff tell us that heavy political casualties may result at Florence, Italy, later this month if no breakthrough has occurred. Parliamentary sources report that the Prime Minister and Mrs Major are in good heart. God Save the Queen.