12 November 2001
Get tough with France, EU told

By Philip Clarke, Europe editor

EUROPEAN farm ministers and commissioners have been told to get tough with France, which continues protect its beef producers by breaking EU law.

The latest breach involves a move by farmers and meat traders, supported by the French government, to ban all imports of beef during November.

National Farmers Union president Ben Gill has fired off a flurry of letters on the subject, demanding a return to normal trading.

He has written to Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett and food and farm commissioners David Byrne and Franz Fischler.

French farm leader Jean-Michel Lemetayer has also received a letter.

“We are amazed and appalled at this action,” said Mr Gill. “It strikes at the very principles of the single market.

“The government and commission must bring every pressure to bear on the French, forcing them to resume free trade in beef immediately.”

The commercial impact on the UK will be limited due to the continuing effect of foot-and-mouth restrictions.

But other member states, such as the Netherlands and Germany, are feeling the effects of French trade restrictions for the first time.

They are expected to join calls at next weeks farm council in Brussels for France to end its cartel-type arrangements.

France also continues to ban British beef due to BSE – a position expected to be declared illegal by the European Court before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, NFU Scotland has criticised French plans to go beyond EU rules and force the removal of spinal column from imported lamb carcasses.

NFUS president Jim Walker said the EU commission must take action before the single market is “blown apart” by Frances breach of the rules.