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
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn