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?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cabinet Maker / Joiner

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This bespoke furniture and inte...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic and Motion Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you get a buzz from thinking up new ideas a...

Recruitment Genius: Media Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£14500 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Female Care Worker

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This expanding, vibrant charity which su...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones