19 November 1999
Tories slam beef label compromise

By FWi staff

A COMPROMISE to end the beef crisis which would see Britains beef exports labelled British or Scottish has come under criticism.

The European Commission says Britain has agreed that its beef can be marked with its country of origin, reports

Both France and Germany have been pushing this, but it was thought this broke EU single market rules.

However, the commission has said that under the date-based export scheme, such marking is allowed,

This is a climbdown which will see British beef stigmatised on the Continent, insist the Conservatives.

Legal experts within the Commission argue a label such as “British, XEL(export eligible) Beef,” would not break the rules on countries of origin.

“It should be noted that this information is not a simple mark of national origin, but an indication that the meat has been produced in accordance with the date-based export scheme in force in the UK,” said Fridays statement.

“The danger is that this special label will act as a warning to consumers in France and Germany and it will steer them away into buying an alternative product,” shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo told BBC Radio 4.

“This may act as a kind of stigma on British beef. It is quite absurd for the ministry of agriculture to say this is not a concession.”

This had been seen as a way of ending the beef crisis without concessions from either France or Britain.

British officials made clear that no change in current law was being proposed. The commission was simply detailing existing regulations.

And a senior French government spokesman in Brussels indicated it could be good news and a way out of the deadlock.