10 November 1999
France ready to defy EC over beef
By FWi staff
FRANCE says it is prepared to face legal action rather than lift its ban on British beef if it still has concerns about its safety.
French consumer affairs minister Marie-Lise le Branchu said France “didnt mind” if it was taken to court by the European Commission, if consumers were not given “adequate guarantees”.
The EC has given France until 16 November to lift its ban after EU scientists unanimously rejected French reasons for continuing its boycott over concerns about BSE.
Speaking on the Radio 4 Today programme, Ms le Branchu said she appreciated Britains economic and political concerns, but that safety was her prime concern.
National Farmers Union leader Ben Gill described Ms le Branchus statements as “filibustering” and warned that, if France did not comply with the EC, it would create a wider crisis for the authority of the European Union.
British, French and EU officials met on Friday to clarify British anti-BSE health and safety controls
Farming minister Nick Brown was accused of caving in to the French in agreeing to the talks. He claimed clarification could bring an earlier end to the ban than legal action, which could drag on for years.
EU food safety commissioner David Byrne expects an initial response from Paris tomorrow.
He plans to make a final decision on whether to proceed with legal action at a Commission meeting in Strasbourg on 16 November.
The EU BSE ban on British beef was lifted in August. France and Germany have continued boycotts.