20 September 2001
French owe us for beef ban – MEP

By FWi staff

CALLS for compensation are mounting after a European judge ruled that France acted illegally in banning imports of British beef.

The European Court of Justice is expected to issue its final judgement in 6-12 weeks time after advocate general Jean Mischo said the ban was illegal.

But it would be unusual for the courts judgement to contradict his views which were published on Thursday (20 September).

West Country Conservative MEP Caroline Jackson said France should compensate Britain for lost exports to what was its biggest market.

She said: “It is hard to believe that Frances move was not protectionist, rather than triggered primarily by health concerns.

“I call on the [UK] government to follow up the question of financial compensation with all speed.”

National Farmers Union Scotland president Jim Walker said French protectionism was continuing to damage the British beef industry.

“The French decision to ban the imports of beef from the UK flouted Commission rules and they have made a mockery of the single market.”

Peter Hardwick of the Meat and Livestock Commission said he hoped France would not throw up further obstacles to the resumption of trade.

Mr Hardwick said the main priority will be to start rebuilding sales to the French market as soon as possible. But it will be a hard task.

French agriculture minister Jean Glavany said that France would insist on maintaining its ban on imports of British beef.

Meanwhile, the National Farmers Union is to continue pursuing its own separate legal case through the French courts.

“This outcome in the European Court should help us win our parallel case too,” said NFU policy director, Martin Haworth.

“That could then open the door for a damages claim.”

But Mr Haworth was keen to play down the prospects of much compensation. “There is no pot of gold waiting at the end of this.”

It would be hard to quantify how much trade had been lost, especially as exports were banned again last February due to foot-and-mouth.

There is, however, the possibility of the European Commission imposing a fine on France, if it decides there has been a breach of law.

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