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1996 - Mr Major’s Comments on the British Beef Ban

Below are extracts of Mr Major’s comments on the British beef ban, made during an interview in Florence held on Friday 21st June 1996


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if the deal on the ban on British beef had been worth the non-cooperation policy].

PRIME MINISTER:

They are not pieces of paper, they are a deal that is important for the British agricultural industry and the beef industry. 650,000 people work in that industry. Their future depended upon us reaching a satisfactory deal, I emphasise satisfactory deal, with our European partners as speedily as possible. That is what we have done. That was the point that was at issue.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he should have conceded more ground earlier to gain the same deal].

PRIME MINISTER:

If I could have done, I would have done. I think you know the history of this. We repeatedly approached our European partner with proposals, they repeatedly looked at those proposals and broadly said well very interesting, now go away and bring back something better. Well that is no way to treat the United Kingdom and I was not prepared to have the United Kingdom treated that way. And then when we produced, with the full support of Commission, a proposal to have the beef derivatives ban lifted, with the support of the Commission, with the support of the scientists, some of the member states voted against it - against the science, against the Commission. The only way to move this forward was to make sure that it had some big push, some real imperative towards a conclusion. That is what we provided, that is what we have got.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if some Commission officials had said the deal with just a fig leaf].

PRIME MINISTER:

Come, come, come. I daresay there are lots of people who would like to hide the fact that we have managed to solve a very difficult problem and made progress. I will just make the point very simply to you. In eight weeks after this happened we made no progress whatsoever, none to help the British agricultural industry. It just, if I may use the term, got locked, no progress. In the four weeks since then we have not only made good progress, we have got an eradication plan unanimously accepted by the Standing Veterinary Committee, we have got a framework plan recognised and accepted by the Commission, we have now had that accepted by all our partners and we are on our way towards a resolution of this whole dispute. That has happened in the last four weeks. And none of the government’s opponents imagined for one second that that could be done so comprehensively in that timescale.