Ministers launch veto offensive in Luxembourg

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The Independent Online
This week could be make-or-break for the Government's beef war. Ministers head for Luxembourg today armed to the teeth with vetoes, hoping their campaign of obduracy will at last win concessions on the beef ban.

The likelihood is, however, that the new Luxembourg offensive will sink the Government ever deeper into the quagmire.

Reports yesterday that five new cases of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (CJD), the brain disease linked to BSE, have been uncovered in Britain, spread renewed nervousness across the Continent.

Threats of new disruption from the Government raised hackles in European capitals. Fresh scorn will be heaped on the British ministers as they veto more proposals for which they have long campaigned.

Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, in Luxembourg for a meeting of finance ministers today, will block new measures aimed at combating EU fraud. Eric Forth, the employment minister, will block an anti-racism proposal, and tomorrow Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, will block crime-fighting and asylum measures.

With no progress in Luxembourg, Tory Euro-sceptics may press Mr Major to veto the Florence summit which begins on 22 June.

Today Douglas Hogg, the Secretary of State for Agriculture, will be in Luxembourg to attempt to win a lifting of the ban on gelatin, semen and tallow.

For the measure to pass, Germany and Austria - the two strongest opponents - must back Britain. To date, Britain's anti-BSE measures have failed to assure either the European Commission or Europe's partners, which argue that the programme is chaotic and badly monitored. Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, is due to present Britain's ideas for a framework at a meeting with Jacques Santer, the Commission president, in Brussels tomorrow.

Although the Commission is prepared to discuss a phased lifting of the ban, nobody in Brussels believes there is any hope of elements of the ban being lifted before the Florence summit.

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