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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 there had been a successful conclusions to the talks].

PRIME MINISTER:

It is a rational conclusion, it is a rational common sense conclusion to a problem faced right the way across Europe. I think that is the way everyone will see it.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if normal diplomacy would have brought the same result].

PRIME MINISTER:

I self-evidently didn’t gain it by normal diplomacy. In the first eight weeks of this crisis we made no progress. In the last four weeks of this crisis we have produced an eradication plan that is accepted by everyone, we have now got a framework document, not just agreed by the Commission but promoted by the Commission and agreed by all our European partners. So self-evidently, we have now made the progress that we needed.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he acted fairly in his non-cooperation policy].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think I defended the fact that in our judgement Britain was not being treated fairly over this matter. I think it is worth recalling precisely why we acted as we did. Firstly, we have repeatedly brought forward ideas about how we might deal with this problem, only to have them rebuffed, not good enough, try again.

We wanted a constructive discussion, we were not getting it. And secondly, when we had reached an agreement with the Commission, the Commission unanimously recommended that the ban was lifted on beef derivatives, the scientists said it should be lifted, but some of our colleagues voted against that lifting. So I think there was some reason for us to react as we did. But now that is behind us. We have moved forward faster and more comprehensively than anybody imagined, and now we have got a deal that enables things to return to normal.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked what stopped other countries using the same tactics against Britain in the future].

PRIME MINISTER:

I can’t think of an occasion when one nation faced a national problem like the BSE crisis in the United Kingdom and the other fourteen were not engaged in rational discussion with them. I hope that circumstance will not occur again. It did occur, it is now behind us. So if that doesn’t occur again then there would self-evidently be no need for a response similar to the one that Britain has made recently.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if it had damaged the EU - British relationship].

PRIME MINISTER:

You mustn't be too concerned about a few people who are grumpy. Here we have a collection of nation states, each fighting for its own national interest. That is our responsibility. If occasionally we upset people by fighting for the British national interest, well others occasionally upset Britain by fighting for their national interest, that is in the nature of the way the European Union works.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he could persuade the Euro-sceptics to support this deal].

PRIME MINISTER:

It is the right deal, this is the right deal, this is a deal that is rational, it is based on common sense and it is what is necessary for the future of agriculture. What would have been appalling for agriculture would be for us to drift on for a very long time without having put in place the building blocks that will eventually get the whole of this ban lifted. That would have been no good for the farmer, no good for British agriculture. This deal is right in principle and I will be able to go back to the House of Commons and recommend it to the House of Commons with complete confidence.