Blair refuses to join in tit-for-tat war with France

THE PRIME Minister ruled out a "tit-for-tat trade war" yesterday, accusing William Hague of "immature nonsense" by advocating an illegal ban on French products. Tony Blair warned the Tory leader during Prime Minister's question time that the "best way to deal with it [the dispute] is to play it straight by the rules to make sure we have the law on our side, quality on our side and science on our side."

THE PRIME Minister ruled out a "tit-for-tat trade war" yesterday, accusing William Hague of "immature nonsense" by advocating an illegal ban on French products. Tony Blair warned the Tory leader during Prime Minister's question time that the "best way to deal with it [the dispute] is to play it straight by the rules to make sure we have the law on our side, quality on our side and science on our side."

But Mr Hague attacked the Government for failing to take effective action to protect the public. When it came to ministers, "it is not just the dead cows which have had their spines taken out", he said.

Mr Hague said the Government knew in June that French animal feed was contaminated "with waste from septic tanks, water from washing lorries and human sewage and scientists were now warning French meat could pose dangers to the public". He added: "That was four months ago. Don't you regret that the Government did absolutely nothing about that at the time?"

Mr Blair said the Government and the European Commission had made representations over the issue. "The advice we got from our scientists yesterday was this: 'There is no immediate health risk and therefore no basis for seeking a ban of French products at either Community level or unilaterally'."

He told Mr Hague: "Therefore, the ban that you are calling for on French products would be stupid and illegal. You are calling for an illegal ban on French products. That would start precisely the type of trade war that any sensible person would want to avoid."

The angry exchanges came shortly after Nick Brown, the Minister of Agriculture, tried to appease angry farmers by publishing new food labelling guidelines, the "British Food Kitemark", to ensure shoppers can tell if products they are buying are British.

Mr Hague said the Minister of Agriculture had launched a personal boycott of all French products and taunted Mr Blair: "And you lecture other people about a trade war? Do you support Mr Brown's boycott?"

Mr Blair said: "We want people to eat good British beef, good British pork, good British lamb - that is a choice British consumers are making. What we do not want is an illegal trade war. That is what you are suggesting."

He quoted the Scottish National Farmers' Union, which said it was "not in favour of a tit-for-tat trade war", and added: "Those are sensible words. Those are the words of people with British farming at their heart - not the Opposition who want to whip up their normal anti-Europeanism, who have locked themselves into a stupid policy that would do enormous damage to this country. This country will never forget who gave us BSE in the first place."

The Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, said everyone agreed the French were acting "in an unlawful way" on British beef imports.

He went on: "If history teaches us anything ... it is that trade wars, a descent into protectionism, is counterproductive, self-defeating and, quite frankly, is the height of political and parliamentary irresponsibility."

Mr Blair replied: "That is the Conservative Party position."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Guru Careers: Sales Director / Business Development Manager

£35 - 45K + COMMISSION (NEG): Guru Careers: A Sales Director / Business Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee