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Friday, 12 July, 2002, 03:42 GMT 04:42 UK
France breaks beef ban deadline
French abattoir
The French say they are protecting consumers
The deadline for France to lift its ban on beef imports from Britain ran out at midnight on Thursday, and the country now faces the threat of fines by the European Commission.

France has said it needs to wait for further scientific advice before it can declare whether or not British beef is free of BSE and safe to eat.

The EC's deadline for France to allow imports of beef expired nearly three years after the ban was lifted in the rest of Europe.

The French stance has angered farmers in the UK and British officials say that France simply has no excuse now not to lift their ban.


We have been waiting two-and-a-half years for this slur to the reputation of British beef to be rectified

Ben Gill
NFU
France wants to wait for its food standards agency to rule British beef safe to eat, which is unlikely to come before September.

But Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union, said: "The French must inform the Commission that they intend to lift this ridiculous ban immediately. Nothing less will do.

Ban 'unlawful'

"If they fail to do so, the European Commission must take the strongest line possible.

"We have been waiting two-and-a-half years for this slur to the reputation of British beef to be rectified. France must realise time is running out."
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac
The beef ban has been discussed by Blair and Chirac

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "There is no excuse for the French not to lift the ban and we fully support the Commission's action."

Two weeks ago, the EC sent the French government a "reasoned opinion" which repeated an earlier judgment by the European Court of Justice last year which declared the ban unlawful.

The move gave France 15 days to comply with the judgment.

If the EC decides to punish France, it will first have to refer it back to the European Court of Justice to set the fine.

But that process could take another 18 months.

BSE has been linked to the fatal Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in humans.

See also:

26 Jun 02 | Europe
20 Jun 02 | UK Politics
23 May 02 | Europe
20 Mar 02 | Europe
15 Dec 01 | Europe
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