18 October 1999
French envoy lives dangerously — on British beef

MPs who presented the French ambassador with a joint of British beef this morning say he plans to eat it himself – because he is “delighted to live dangerously” for his country.

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Paul Tyler and shadow Agriculture Minister Colin Breed delivered an 8lb prime Cornish beef joint to Daniel Louis Bernard at the French Embassy in London.

This was in an attempt to persuade France to lift its unilateral ban on British beef.

The London Evening Standard reports Mr Tyler saying the ambassador accepted it with considerable enthusiasm and looked forward to it.

“He said ambassadors have to take risks on behalf of their country and he was delighted to live dangerously.”

The ambassador said he truly believed French concerns were based on public health and consumer consideration rather than protectionist measures to promote French trade. Mr Tyler said: “He promised to relay back to the French government the particular concerns we raised of the wider issues of trade and European relations.

The delegation warned that continuing French resistance to British beef exports following the lifting of the worldwide BSE ban could lead to a retaliatory ban on French products.

Mr Tyler said this could affect imports to Britain of products such as Chablis, Champagne, Camembert and Cognac.

He said: “There is a real danger that if they stick to their guns on the beef ban they will not just damage relations but may damage trade.

“If there is a good reason to exercise a boycott British, consumers may just take it.

“The French cannot expect others to obey European rules if they do not.

“No food is risk-free. If our supermarkets start saying to their French suppliers Sorry, we cant sell your stuff, it will be very serious indeed.”

The joint of rump was taken from a pedigree Sussex steer and was donated by a local butcher in Launceton, Cornwall.

Last week Prime Minister Tony Blair threatened to take France to the European Court after Paris refused to implement the lifting of the ban by the EU in August.

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has said his country had no choice but to keep the ban after a panel of French scientists raised doubts over the safety of British beef.