Welcoming the consultation, Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said:
"The Government has been exploring informally with the European Commission how Northern Ireland could benefit from its low rate of BSE. I am pleased to say that we have now developed proposals which the Commission have indicated might provide the basis for a decision. These would permit the export of live cattle, beef and bovine products from Northern Ireland without the restrictions which currently apply to the UK. This has the potential to provide a welcome boost to Northern Ireland exports. It would involve the introduction of some new controls on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and within Northern Ireland. The Government is therefore consulting widely in order to hear the views of the industry in Great Britain and Northern Ireland before deciding whether to take this proposal forward."
The proposal to seek a lifting of the beef export ban for Northern Ireland in recognition of its low levels of BSE was announced on 30 March as part of the Government's Action Plan for Farming. The Government is now consulting on a draft implementation plan. This sets out how existing controls on exports of cattle, beef and other bovine products from Northern Ireland would be amended and outlines the new controls which might be introduced. The aim is to enable the existing trade to continue between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as far as possible whilst at the same time preventing ineligible products originating in Great Britain being exported from Northern Ireland.