29 October 1999
Brussels beef boffins near to decision

SCIENTISTS considering whether there is any substance to French claims that British beef is unsafe are reported to be close to a decision.

After three hours of talks, the European Commission scientific steering committee, is said to have agreed on a text, reports the London Evening Standard.

The 16-strong group is said to be trying to agree by consensus rather than a damaging split vote.

“There is a prepared text which they are discussing. They have discussed all three questions which the Commission raised,” said a EC spokeswoman.

However, she did not exclude a divided outcome.

It is thought that as a form of words was in place, this was a sign that a clear, if not unanimous, decision was the most likely outcome later today (Friday).

A simple majority would be required to settle the fate of British beef. But failure to reach a unanimous verdict would be a heavy setback for Britain.

A three-and-a-half-year EU ban on British beef was lifted in August. France has continued a unilateral ban as it questions British BSE figures.