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The BBC's Graham Satchell
"It's the worst possible outcome for British farmers"
 real 28k

Nick Brown, British Agriculture Minister
"The legal action has already commenced"
 real 28k

Ben Gill, Chairman of the National Farmer's Union
"I'm tremendously angry"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 8 December, 1999, 22:43 GMT
France keeps British beef ban
British beef The UK government had been expecting the ban to be lifted

The French government has announced it is maintaining the ban on British beef exports.

The European Commission had given Paris until Thursday to lift its embargo or face legal action.

Food Row Fears
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin met for two hours with nine of his cabinet members on Wednesday to decide the matter.

His office later confirmed that the ban was not being lifted and cited continuing safety concerns.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has already spoken to Mr Jospin to protest at the French decision.

British anger

A spokesman for the prime minister said: "We have science and the law on our side and it is regrettable that the French had ignored the science and defied the law.

"It now means we have to go through the courts, a process that everyone had hoped to avoid.

"It means too that the French are totally isolated on this issue."

The spokesman added that the government was already in touch with the European Commission to ensure that the relevant legal steps were being taken forward.

It is regrettable that the French have ignored the science and defied the law
Downing Street
UK Agriculture minister Nick Brown told BBC 2's Newsnight: "We couldn't have tried harder or worked harder to get this disagreement resolved by discussion. We have no alternative but to press ahead pursuing our case through the courts."

Shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo said the ban confirmed the 'total failure' of Labour's softly, softly approach to France during the beef crisis.

He added: "British beef farmers will now pay the price of (Agriculture Minister) Nick Brown's incompetence. The Labour government have been totally humiliated by France."

Mr Yeo said the ban was a serious threat to the working of the single market.

"If the European Commission cannot get France, one of the largest countries in Europe, to carry out a very simple ruling with the unanimous endorsement of the whole scientific steering committee, chaired incidentally by a Frenchman, then the whole working of the single market is in danger."

Farmers' fury

National Farmers' Union president Ben Gill said he would be catching the "very first" plane to Brussels on Thursday to put his case to Commissioners.

He made an appeal to consumers to step their partial boycott of French goods in response to the decision.

Nick Brown UK Agriculture Minister Nick Brown is back in the firing line
He said: "We would ask consumers to think very carefully when they go shopping before they buy any French produce, and to buy British instead.

"We have to send a very clear message to the French government about what the British people think of their actions."

Polly McPherson, spokeswoman for the National Farmers' Union in Scotland, said the decision to keep the ban flew in the face of all scientific advice.

"There is no scientific reason for the French to maintain the ban. It is a commercial and political decision," she said.

"We can only assume that the French do not want to let us into their market. They must be afraid of what we will do to it.

"Every sector of this industry is down on its uppers and this is another blow to an industry that has become the punch bag of Europe."

Safety concerns

The decision to keep the ban came after the French food safety agency failed to make a clear-cut decision over beef, saying British measures reduced the risk of BSE but did not eradicate it completely.

The agency's report warned that there was no scientific certainty that health fears over disease-infected beef have been removed, even under the Date-Based Export Scheme which paved the way for lifting the ban across the EU.

And it said that if the French government did give the go-ahead for beef imports from Britain, it should take fully into account the element of risk of BSE infection.

Despite the warnings, Mr Jospin had been expected to give way and resume British beef imports into France, not least to end a difficult three months in Anglo-French relations.

The timing, however, means another round of the beef war will dominate the EU summit in Helsinki summit, which starts on Friday.

A French spokesman said: "The government is above all driven by the priority of public health and consumer safety."

It said Paris was ready to work with the European Commission and its EU partners on a solution to the ban which has been lifted in all the other 15 EU states except Germany since earlier this year.

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See also:
 |  UK
Countdown to beef crisis
06 Dec 99 |  Europe
Agency ducks beef ruling
25 Nov 99 |  UK
Beef war 'ending'
07 Dec 99 |  Europe
Date set for beef ban decision
03 Nov 99 |  UK
UK and France - the official story

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