27 November 2000
Yeo predicts action on French beef

By FWi staff

THE government will be forced to restrict imports of French beef before Christmas, shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo has predicted.

Speaking at the Royal Smithfield Show, Mr Yeo said he was shocked at the governments “inaction” over fears that French beef is infected with BSE.

But the Tory MP for South Suffolk said he believed that the government was holding back until after a summit of European Union leaders in Nice next month.

“I believe there will be restrictions on French beef before Christmas,” Mr Yeo told listeners at a keynote address at Earls Court, London.

“But I also believe that implementing restrictions will be delayed until after the New Year to give Tony Blair an easier ride at the Nice summit.”

But any ban on French beef could jeopardise the future of British beef exports, said Robert Forster, chief executive of the National Beef Association.

Declining levels of BSE mean Britain could be classed as a “low-incidence” country next year in a move that would boost British beef exports, he explained.

Banning beef from France – classed as a low-incidence BSE country despite rising levels of the disease – would therefore be a bad move politically.

“If we aspire to low-incidence status, we shouldnt ban beef from other low-incidence countries,” said Mr Forster.

“We should take the moral high ground and refuse to impose a ban on low BSE-incidence countries.”