31 May 1996

EU roasts Major after non-co-operation move

EU politicians have heavily criticised John Majors decision to impose a non-co-operation policy in Brussels, arguing that the UK must first make sure its measures to eradicate BSE are watertight.

The German government is sceptical that safety standards imposed by MAFF on abattoirs, feed mills, factories and incineration plants will be enforceable.

Their concerns were raised during a three-day visit by a team of European Commission inspectors, who have been carrying out spot-checks this week and will report back prior to Mondays meeting in Luxembourg of the European Council of Farm Ministers.

Markus Ferber summed up many German MEPs concerns, when he said the UK should ensure that no mammalian by-products were getting into the feed chain and that all specified bovine offals were being removed from carcases.

Mr Ferber questioned whether the 80,000 selective slaughter proposal would help lead to the swift eradication of BSE in the UK, arguing that two years ago the Germans had killed 1m pigs to prevent the spread of swine fever.

"The Dutch have slaughtered 60,000 calves and so I believe the ratio does not fit," he argued.

The widespread publicity over the Dutch cull has helped restore public confidence to such an extent that farmer and MEP Karl-Heinz Florenz (Christian Democrat) said German consumers had been crossing the border to buy Dutch beef.

Slow recovery

Jean van der Linden, Dutch farm spokesman, said beef prices had slumped by up to 30% but were now recovering slowly, though politicians in the Netherlands questioned John Majors aggressive stance. Dutch MP Pieter Ter Veer warned that the friendship between the UK and the EU was at stake.

Frustration was also evident among many Irish MEPs, who are fed up at having to spend £0.5m a week to prevent beef products from Northern Ireland crossing the border.

Pat Cox (Progressive Democrat) told MEPs in Strasbourg that Mr Major was trying to bludgeon the EU into lifting the ban, adding that it was very much a UK problem.