Cafe crisis gives summit a bad taste

Anglo-French talks: Major and Chirac to dine at sea as suspected British beef causes closure of famous eatery in Paris

When Jacques Chirac and John Major arranged a Franco-British summit for today, there must have been one subject above all which they wanted to keep off the agenda: beef. Conflicts over BSE are, after all, one of the few issues that cloud one of Britain's better bilateral relationships in Europe.

It was rather unfortunate, then, that on the eve of their meeting, beef slid back on the menu.

It was announced yesterday that the Hard Rock Cafe in Paris had been closed for 15 days by order of the Paris authorities on suspicion of having breached the European embargo on British beef. Some 300kg of suspect meat was found in a freezer at the cafe last week.

The Hard Rock Cafe described the move as "completely unjustified" and said that it would appeal. Its defence is that the beef originated in the Irish Republic, and was packaged in Britain, a procedure which - it says - is permitted under the EU embargo, so long as the company concerned is on an approved list. Its spokesman added that only French beef was used in the cafe's hamburgers.

The French authorities had initially appeared to be considering the cafe's arguments, but changed their mind on Wednesday, when the cafe was ordered to be shut as constituting "a serious risk to public health".

They say that this is the second time the Hard Rock cafe has been found with suspect meat: a raid in June found 500kg of unlabelled beef - itself an offence. This resulted in a warning.

Regardless of the technicalities of the case, the closure of such a high- profile operation as the Hard Rock Cafe in Paris suggests an attempt by the authorities to show that they are enforcing the embargo on British beef.

That the cafe is a foreign, rather than French, operation makes the measure all the more popular. So far, it is mostly French butchers' shops that have been caught with suspect meat, and fined. To target such a prime symbol of Anglo-Saxon culture will have been deeply pleasing to some.

Doubtless Mr Major and Mr Chirac were trying to avoid the subject as they met for dinner last night, ahead of today's more formal talks. After all, beef aside, relations between London and Paris are excellent. The two leaders have roughly similiar ideas on Europe, and military co-operation between Europe's two premier armed powers is racing ahead.

To mark the event, a new naval agreement between Britain and France was signed on board HMS Liverpool, a Type-42 destroyer, in Bordeaux harbour yesterday. The choice of vessel was coincidental, but probably apt: Project Horizon, an air-defence destroyer now under development, is designed primarily to defeat air and missile attack and is expected to form part of European defences against long-range missiles in the next century.

British Secretary of State for Defence Michael Portillo and his French counterpart, Charles Millon, signed the deal under which the chiefs of the British and French navies - Admiral Sir Jock Slater and Admiral Jean- Charles Lefebvre - will supervise joint planning of naval operations, joint exercises, procurement, research and development, and the use of joint British and French naval forces in pursuit of a stronger European defence component within Nato and the Western European Union.

But naval sources yesterday stressed the agreement did not cover nuclear matters although there is co-operation between the two countries in deciding nuclear strategy and shared nuclear patrols

A Franco-British European Air Group , was inaugurated by John Major and President Chirac on 30 October 1995. Because naval operations are centred on ships, a fixed headquarters is not needed. The Royal Navy said yesterday it would mean building on common procedures and means of communication.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Sport
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballArsenal vs QPR match report
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
i100
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all