EU Beef Ban

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 21st May 1996.

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Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon 3:32 pm, 21st May 1996

I repeat that a third element is the ban on beef from specialist beef herds. That is not justified. As soon as appropriate verification schemes are in place, we shall ask the Council to lift the ban. If we get no satisfaction, we shall again pursue the legal remedies open to us.

But those legal steps are not in themselves sufficient. We shall continue to press the scientific case on our partners and pursue our own programme to eradicate BSE. I have to tell the House that, without progress towards lifting the ban, we cannot be expected to continue to co-operate normally on other Community business.

I say this with great reluctance, but the European Union operates through good will. If we do not benefit from good will from partners, clearly we cannot reciprocate. Progress will not be possible in the intergovernmental conference or elsewhere until we have agreement on lifting the ban on beef derivatives and a clear framework in place leading to lifting of the wider ban.

We will raise the question of the ban at all Councils, including the Foreign Affairs Council. If necessary, we shall seek special Councils. I shall make it clear that I expect agreement on how to deal with those problems to be behind us by the time the European Council meets in Florence on 21 and 22 June. If it is not, the Florence meeting is bound to be dominated by the issue. It could not proceed with our normal co-operation unless it faced up to the crisis of confidence affecting not only consumers but Governments throughout Europe.

That is not how I wish to do business in Europe—but I see no alternative. We cannot continue business as usual within Europe when we are faced with the clear disregard by some of our partners of reason, of common sense and of Britain's national interests. We continue to want to make progress through negotiation; but if that is not possible, we are bound to use the legal avenues open to us and the political means at our disposal.

I believe that the whole House recognises the strength of our case and the urgent need for progress. The approach that I have outlined deserves to command support throughout the House.