Euro-court bid to shift beef export ban comes to nought

8 May 1998

Euro-court bid to shift beef export ban comes to nought

By Philip Clarke

Europe editor

ATTEMPTS to get the ban on British beef exports lifted via the European courts have failed.

In a ruling issued on Tuesday, (May 5), the European Court of Justice concluded that Brussels did not overstep the mark when it imposed the ban in March 1996.

Two separate cases had been brought against the EU commission – one by the NFU and one by MAFF. They claimed that Brussels had exceeded its powers, accusing it of being politically and economically motivated. The ban was out of all proportion to the possible risk from BSE to human health, they added.

But this week the Luxembourg-based court came down in favour of the commission. "There is no evidence to support the argument that the commissions main purpose was to allay consumer concern or achieve an economic end rather than the protection of human health," it said.

The court went on to explain that it was necessary to extend the ban to cover the world market, as this was the only way to prevent the re-importation of British beef back into the EU.

The ruling was not unexpected, being in line with an earlier court opinion. And industry disappointment has been tempered by recent progress towards getting the export ban lifted by other means – namely the certified herd scheme in Northern Ireland and the date based scheme for the UK.

"That we are slowly winning the battle is illustrated by the EUs acceptance of beef from Northern Ireland and the supportive way the commission has received our initial proposals for a UK-wide, date-based scheme," said Meat and Livestock Commission director general, Colin Maclean.

EU inspectors are due to file their report on controls for the Northern Ireland scheme imminently. No problems are anticipated and shipments of beef could resume by the end of the month.

But there is still no sign of any proposals from Brussels on the date-based scheme, where the appropriate documents are still being drafted.

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