Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Saturday, 31 October 2009

14 December 1999: British MEPs walk out

European Parliament, Strasbourg

It was a historic day for the European Parliament, but it became memorable in a way that many involved with the Parliament would like to forget.

President Chirac of France had been invited to Strasbourg to officially open the European Parliament's new base in the city. It was the first time that the Parliament had its own seat in Strasbourg, having previously shared facilities with the Council of Europe.

However as President Chirac began his speech, British MEPs from across the political spectrum walked out.

It was a silent protest at the continuing ban on British beef imposed by France

President Chirac appeared unmoved, and continued with his speech welcoming MEPs to the new building.

The newly-elected president of the Parliament, Nicole Fontaine, sat stony-faced, and was said to be outraged by what she saw as a "snub" by British MEPs to President Chirac.

France eventually lifted its ban on British beef in 2002, after the European Commission had ruled the ban illegal, and threatened a fine of £100,000 a day.

The Parliament building in Strasbourg remains controversial and - some may say - jinxed to this day. Costing 470m euros, it had to be evacuated for a time in 2008, when part of the ceiling collapsed in the main debating chamber.

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