9 December 1999
What the papers say — French beef ban
By FWi staff
THE dramatic news that France has refused to lift its boycott on British beef arrived too late for detailed analysis in todays newspapers.
But front-page reports agree the decision will have wider ramifications, most immediately at the summit of European Union heads, which begins tomorrow in Helsinki.
The Times reports how stunned diplomats and ministers reacted with fury to the decision which it believes could mean the ban remaining in place for years pending legal action.
The Financial Timeswarns the decision will cast a cloud over the Helsinki summit, fearing it could complicate efforts to reach agreement on package of measures concerning taxation,
It says it will also create confusion over how issue of food safety is treated by member states within the EU.
The Guardian reports it was a bad night for British beef – but an even worse night for government attempts to persuade the public to drop its traditional suspicion of Europe.
“British farmers, despite their claims that their beef is the safest in the world, have lost out. So too, at least in the short-term, have Mr Blair and other pro-Europeans.”
The Daily Telegraph describes “farmers fury as France refuses to lift beef ban”. It also tells of an earlier call from European Parliament president Nicole Fontaine for British farmers to receive compensation for the French decision to maintain the ban.
“A stunning rebuff for the Blair government and the European Union,” is how The Independent views the decision.
It adds: “The Jospin governments political courage seems to have failed in the face of pressure from consumer groups and right-wing opposition. French farmers were in favour of lifting the ban.”
The Daily Mail, a fierce critic of the agriculture minister Nick Brown, suggests the decision could be “potentially fatal” to the minister.
The newspaper says the reasons for the reverse are “entirely political”. It says the decision was forced on the French premier to retain the support of some of the governments leftist coalition partners.
The Express, which often strongly supports British agriculture, describes Mr Jospins announcement as a “shock decision”.