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Britain wins the beef war.

BRITAIN was last night celebrating a major victory in the beef war when European scientists unanimously decided our beef was safe.

The decision puts France under huge pressure to lift its controversial ban.

A delighted Tony Blair said: "It is exactly what we had hoped for and worked hard to achieve.

"We said throughout that we had the law on our side and science on our side.

"We have shown that by playing by the rules, putting your cause calmly but forcefully, it is possible to win for Britain in Europe.

"We will now keep up the work to make sure the decision is implemented andcontinue to help our farmers to recover from the disaster of BSE."

The PM added: "It is also good news for our exporters who agreed with the Government that a tit-for-tat trade war would have damaged the national interest."

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown was also delighted.

He said he would be lifting his much-criticised personal boycott of French products.

Jim Walker, the president of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, welcomed the decision by the Scientific Steering Committee in Brussels.

He said: "France does not have a case and we knew all along that France's actions had nothing to do with science and everything to do with commercial protectionism.

"We now want France to act quickly to comply with European law so our farmers can get back the markets they have lost."

Scottish Rural Affairs Minister Ross Finnie last night welcomed the decision as "total common sense".

He said: "This is welcome but not unexpected. It is certainly good news for Scottish farmers."

And Scottish Conservative rural affairs spokesman Alex Johnstone said: "The message to the French Government must now be crystal clear - either remove this outrageous and illegal ban now, or Britain will drag you through the courts for every penny that you are worth."

At a Brussels news conference, European Food Safety Commissioner David Byrne described the committee's report as "comprehensive, reasoned and balanced". He said there was now no longer any need for either France or Germany - which also still has a beef ban in place - to maintain those restrictions.

He said: "I believe that the French and German authorities need to take stock of the committee's opinion and lift their national restrictions on imports of British beef.

"Those restrictions are no longer necessary in the light of the safeguards in place."

Mr Byrne promised "speedy solutions" to resolve the current impasse and was planning talks this weekend with Nick Brown, and the French and German governments.

The Scientific Committee comprised four Britons, two Frenchmen, two Germans, two Dutchmen, a Swede, an Italian, a Spaniard, an Irishman, a Dane, and a Belgian.

A statement issued by them said: "The Scientific Steering Committee today concluded unanimously that it does not share the concern expressed by the French Food Safety Agency about the safety of the meat and meat products exported by the."

Last night, the committee's French chairman Professor Gerard Pascal confirmed the decision had been "unanimous".

There was no immediate reaction to the decision from the French government.
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Author:Blackman, Oonagh
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 30, 1999
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