A two-pronged assault to lift beef export ban

11 July 1997

A two-pronged assault to lift beef export ban

GOVERNMENT will adopt a twin-track approach to try to lift the beef export ban, farm minister, Jack Cunningham, has confirmed.

Despite the outright rejection of the export certified herd scheme proposals by the EU commissions veterinary and scientific advisers last month, Dr Cunningham said the scheme would be revised and re-submitted to Brussels. The revisions would take into account the criticisms of the committees.

At the same time, government was developing a new proposal for a date-based export scheme. He said both ideas had already been discussed with the commission, and government would "press both with equal vigour".

A MAFF official said no formal proposal had yet been submitted for a date-based scheme, but talks with the commission continued. While accepting that a born-after date for exports would be much simpler than the certified herd scheme, the official said there was no point in shutting any doors that might eventually lead to the ban being lifted.

Scheme revisions

So, government would take account of the criticisms of the certified herd scheme and make changes to it. But Dr Cunningham said the revisions would mean the scheme would be more restricted than initially proposed.

But, he stressed: "It would still be open, in principle, to producers in all parts of the United Kingdom." The MAFF official insisted there was no plan to submit a formal proposal to the commission to treat Northern Ireland separately and allow the ban to be lifted there first.

The NFU has welcomed the determination to pursue a date-based scheme. "We have been pushing this idea for months and we are delighted that government has taken it on board," an official said. The union had never supported the certified herd scheme because it was too restrictive.

But the twin track proposal has infuriated Scottish NFU leader Sandy Mole who said the approach was fundamentally flawed.

"The danger is that Europe could pick the tougher scheme, which is designed to suit Northern Ireland. This would leave Scotlands beef industry high and dry for years to come," he said.n

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