Warnings as ban on British beef is lifted

THE WORLDWIDE ban on exports of British beef was lifted yesterday, ending a 32-month long saga which has cost the meat industry and the taxpayer pounds 4.6bn.

The move, agreed by European agriculture ministers in Brussels, was welcomed by the Prime Minister as "genuinely good news". It should allow the resumption of sales abroad next spring, as long as Britain passes an inspection by European experts.

However, there were warnings, including one from Nick Brown, the Agriculture Secretary, that British farmers face huge difficulties in rebuilding lost markets. Mr Blair agreed, adding: "Getting beef sales back to where they were will take time and effort."

Yesterday's meeting marked the culmination of British efforts to convince EU partners that the UK has done enough to guarantee the safety of its beef. Only Germany opposed the lifting of the ban, although France, Spain, Austria and Luxembourg abstained. The European Commission will need to rubber stamp the deal.

All sales of beef outside the UK were banned in March 1996 after Britain announced a possible link between "mad cow" disease in beef and its human equivalent, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The plan approved yesterday will allow the UK to export deboned meat from animals born after 1 August 1996 and aged between six and 30 months. These could not have eaten contaminated foodstuffs.

Ministers have also received fresh scientific advice this week that the risk of BSE from beef on the bone is now "negligible". This will enable the the ban on T-bone steaks to be lifted, probably before Christmas.

However, Britain still faces several hurdles before it can start exporting meat again. In particular, EU inspectors will need to visit to ensure the terms of the agreement are being met.

Before that is done, the Government needs legislation to make compulsory a final cull of the offspring of cows with BSE to reduce fears that the disease may be transmitted from mother to calf. Of 4,756 cows identified as having been born to BSE-carrying cows, around 600 have already been slaughtered.

Yesterday, Mr Brown said that, for those reasons, he was still considering the date for the EU inspection, but he set a target of next spring.

Even then the prospects for farmers, excluded from their export markets which, in 1995 were worth around pounds 500m, are poor. In the summer Northern Ireland won the right to export under a separate scheme. Sales amount to only 20-30 tonnes a week, less than 2 per cent of the pre-BSE ban figure.

This year, Britain has confirmed 1,799 new cases of BSE, by far the largest number in the EU. Franz Fischler, the European Agriculture Commissioner, added that the inspection of conditions in the UK "is necessary to show to the other European countries that everything works well".

However, Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union, described yesterday's decision as a "Christmas present" for farmers.

Cost of the ban, page 3

Leading article, Review, page 3

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has over 40 years ...

Recruitment Genius: Weekend Factory Operatives

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is curr...

Recruitment Genius: FP&A Analyst

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A market leading acquirer and m...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fully qualified electricians re...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific