Parliament & Politics: EU ready to lift ban on beef exports

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The Independent Online
EUROPEAN agriculture ministers are expected to vote on Monday for the ban on British beef exports to be lifted.

The ban will have cost UK taxpayers an estimated pounds 4bn by 2001 in special measures to eradicate BSE and reassure the European Union that British beef is safe for export.

The Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, will tell an audience in his Newcastle constituency tonight that he is "cautiously optimistic" the ban will be lifted at Monday's meeting. The agriculture ministers' recommendation has to go to the European Commission for implementation, but there are hopes in Whitehall that the ban could be lifted early in the new year.

It will not affect the ban on beef on the bone in this country, but there are also hopes that sales will be allowed to resume before too long.

Although beef consumption in Britain has almost regained its pre-BSE level, there is little immediate relief in store for the farmers, whose businesses have been hit by the export ban. With concern remaining about the health aspects of eating red meat, beef consumption across Europe is in decline.