29 October 1999
Resolution to beef ban soon?

BRITAIN appears to be heading towards a diplomatic compromise with France in the beef dispute.

This emerged as it became clear that legal action would be protracted and not succeed in the governments objective of reviving exports to Europe.

Brussels stepped into the arena yesterday putting pressure on both sides to avoid any further escalation of the dispute.

This was even though the British case was strengthened, according to some reports.

Dr Fritz Kemper, a German national and one of the 16-strong scientific panel advising the European Commission, said there was “honestly no new evidence” in the French dossier.

The panel of scientists meets again today to deliver its verdict on 600 pages of French evidence claiming British beef is unsafe.

Hopes of settlement were heightened by signs that France was conceding ground.

Jean Glavany, French agriculture minister, said that the crisis could be resolved if more stringent controls were in put in place.

Against this offer of peace, Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers Union, took a blunt position. The Financial Times reports his response as: “One simple word, en Francais: non.”

Several reports devote space to the uncomfortable questioning Nick Brown, the agriculture secretary, faced in parliament on the issue from his opposite number.

Tim Yeo accused him of not appearing to be strong enough to do the job.

Reports in all the broadsheet papers continue to give extensive coverage to the issue.

The Times devotes two of its inside pages to looking at various aspects of the row, including a British diplomatic campaign to change French minds and a visit by Devon farmers to the French embassy in London.

The Independent provides its readers with a comprehensive “question and answer” backgrounder on all the aspects of the dispute.

It also visited one of the French Channel ports to report that the dispute was having no impact on British enthusiasm for French produce.

The Daily Telegraph puts a more nationalistic spin on its reporting. It claimed to have found French enthusiasm for economic warfare with Britain on the wane as its farmers “scent ruin” from the loss of exports.

It also reports that French street traders have been banned from selling produce in British towns because of fears of reprisals by residents.