Stick up for Britain, Hague tells Blair

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Conservative leader William Hague today demanded a ban on imports of French chicken, pigmeat and beef as the cross-Channel food safety furore roared on.

Conservative leader William Hague today demanded a ban on imports of French chicken, pigmeat and beef as the cross-Channel food safety furore roared on.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown was today preparing to publish scientific evidence on the safety of French meat in a bid to justify the Government's refusal to ban French products, despite fears that livestock there may have been fed with sewage.

But Mr Hague condemned the Government's approach, arguing that a ban on suspect French products was justified, and urging the Government to "stick up" for Britain.

"There's a variety of scientific views (but) I don't know how many scientists you need to tell you that eating food that has been prepared in this way is not a good idea," Mr Hague told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He accused the Government of "moving the burden of proof" - being prepared to ban British beef on the bone over safety concerns, but not suspect French products.

"In the case of our own beef, no-one could prove that eating beef on the bone was dangerous but the Government decided to ban it," said Mr Hague.

"Now our ministers are in the ludicrous position of saying that it's safe to eat meat from other countries but it's not safe to eat our own beef on the bone.

"They don't need a scientist, they need a psychiatrist."

Mr Hague said he wanted a ban on imports of French chicken, pigmeat and beef.

"I think it does no harm at all for this country to stick up for itself," he said.

But earlier, Chancellor Gordon Brown dismissed calls for a unilateral British boycott of French produce.

The Chancellor told GMTV: "A tit for tat war based on illegal action is in nobody's interests."

Mr Brown added: "The European Commission has got to act against people who are acting themselves illegally, and that will come to a head on Thursday."

EU scientists are due to say later this week whether they are still satisfied that British beef is safe, giving their assessment of the French case for its unilateral ban.

Assuming the EU reaffirms the safety of British beef, Mr Brown said the Government would be looking to the Commission to force the French into line.

"On Thursday we will be demanding action against the French," said Mr Brown.

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