14 June 1996

Farmers back Euro-freeze

THE governments policy of non-co-operation with the rest of the EU is supported by British farmers, junior minister Lord Mackay told Peers.

Defending the policy after the government refused to agree to a draft EU anti-fraud regulation, Lord Mackay said the farming industry was with the government in a resolute stand on the beef issue.

The UK supported, in principle, the draft regulation providing extra powers for the EU Commission to carry out on-the-spot checks against fraud in member states. But it was unable to agree to it until there was agreement on a clear framework leading to a lifting of the wider beef export ban, Lord Mackay said.

Lib Dem peer Lord Thomson of Monifieth said the government had taken a leading role in the fight against fraud in the EU. "Therefore, is not this policy to block and veto proposals to take action against fraud the most absurd, self-defeating policy that we have so far supported?" he asked.

Lord Mackay replied that the government had to block even those measures with which it agreed to make the point to its EU partners. And the policy was working, he claimed.

"We believe that it is as a result of our policy that we are beginning to see progress.

"The decision to lift the ban on beef derivatives is one step in what we firmly believe to be the right direction," he added.

The government was now waiting for agreement on the methods and steps that would lead to a lifting of the wider beef ban.

"No such framework is yet in place. We firmly believe that it is important for our industry that such a framework is put in place. That is why I am afraid that we shall have to continue our blocking policy until all our European partners see some sense."