France set to retain BSE boycott

11 November 1999

France set to retain BSE boycott

By FWi staff

THE deadline for France to say it is lifting its ban on British beef expires today (Thursday).

But indications are that France will retain the BSE boycott due to public health concerns and face court action from the European Commission

The French government has said it will contact the EC to try to find a way out of the situation.

France has to justify its opposition on a scientific basis after scientists unanimously stated it had no grounds for its ban.

Agriculture minister Nick Brown has warned France not to seek new conditions for a ban and expects the EC to take legal action unless France backs down.

“It is not for the French government to set extra conditions around the date-based export scheme,” BBC Online reports Mr Brown as saying.

“That scheme has been agreed with the European Union. It is the law and if we cannot get enforcement by negotiation we will look to the Commission to enforce the law.”
P>But Daniel Vaillant, French government spokesman, said no risks would be taken by authorities in lifting the embargo.

“France is fully willing to seek a way out of the crisis but it will not be at the expense of French peoples health”.

According to Mr Vaillant, the main sticking points concern the safety aspects of derivative products of beef and the question of traceability.

National Farmers Union leader Ben Gill said the French demands were “filibustering tactics”.

Frances snub on the beef ban has been seen by many commentators as a major blow for Tony Blairs government.

It had resisted calls for retaliatory boycotts of French produce, putting its faith in solving the dispute through diplomatic manoeuvring.

Conservative leader William Hague said the French position was “total humiliation for this spineless government” and “this hopeless minister for agriculture” Nick Brown.

The EU lifted its three-and-a-half-year ban on British beef exports in August. France and Germany have retained embargoes.

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