14 December 1999
British farmers prepare to sue France
By FWi staff
A FIRM of solicitors has been appointed to undertake urgent preparatory work for a damages claim against France over the ongoing ban on British beef.
The news emerged as British MEPs boycotted the opening of the new European Parliament in Strasbourg by French president Jacques Chirac.
London-based solicitors Taylor Joynson Garrett were asked by the National Farmers Union to examine the possibility of suing France for compensation.
The French government has pledged to maintain its embargo against British beef imports since it restated last week that the ban on shipments will be upheld.
Ben Gill, NFU president, said the union had now decided to pursue a damages claim through the French courts to obtain compensation for British farmers.
“If, once the preparatory work is completed, the NFU considers that a case should be brought, proceedings will be started.”
In the meantime, the NFU is attempting to put pressure on the European Commission to take rapid action for interim financial relief against France.
But no European action would meet the full losses of UK beef farmers caused by Frances continued refusal to lift the ban on British beef, said Mr Gill.
An NFU delegation met with MEPs in Strasbourg on Tuesday (14 December) to press for an interim judgement and accelerated proceedings against France.
Earlier on the same day, more than 80 British MEPs boycotted the opening of the new European Parliament by French president Jacques Chirac.
In a rare display of cross-party unity, the MEPs walked out of the Strasbourg chamber when Mr Chirac rose to address the deputies.
Alan Donnelly, leader of the Labour group, said the protest was against Frances lack of respect for European law.
Tony Blair pledged his full backing for legal action by British farmers against France in a statement to the House of Commons on Monday (13 December).