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Ban on beef lifted as French relent at last.

Byline: Graham Hiscott

The British Government said it would welcome an early start of beef shipments to France after the French Government yesterday lifted its ban on imports.

The decision follows advice from the French Food Standards Agency that British beef exports were now safe.

France has steadfastly refused to open its markets to British beef for the last three years despite an European Union expert committee giving it a clean bill of health.

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett welcomed the announcement by the French, saying: 'I am very pleased for British farming that this issue is being resolved.

'It has been a completely unwarranted shadow hanging over our beef industry for more than three years,' she said.

'I now look forward to the ban being lifted as quickly as possible so that our exporters can work towards recovering markets and providing what has been proved to be some of the safest and best quality beef in the world.

'The UK has been very supportive of the actions taken by the European Commission to resolve this issue.

'Working through the institutions of the EU was the best way to resolve this difficult issue and I am pleased that British beef will be on the menu across the whole of the European Union now. We will continue to work hard at opening markets in other countries.'

The European Commission had requested that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) fine France pounds 100,000 a day for ignoring an earlier court ruling that continuing the ban was illegal.

A spokesman for the Commission said: 'We will now be considering the details before deciding whether or not to withdraw the request to the ECJ to fine France.' The Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) said they would be doing everything they could to resume beef experts to France as soon as possible.

Spokesman Jon Bullock said: 'It is extremely good news but the ban shouldn't have been imposed for this long.

'We are still waiting for the details of the announcement to see whether it has any strings attached.

'It will take at least 10 days for the decision to be enacted into French law and we will be doing everything we can to get exports starting again.

'The ban sent out all the wrong messages about British beef and we are happy it has been lifted.'

The European Union-wide ban on British beef was imposed in 1996 because of public health concerns about mad cow disease, but lifted in 1999 after an expert committee concluded there was no longer a risk.

France ignored the decision, insisting the public health warnings issued by the Agence Francaise de Securite Sanitairre des Aliments (AFSSA) took precedence.

The AFSSA finally ruled on September 20 that British beef was safe and made recommendations to the French Government.

Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union (NFU), urged the European Commission to take action to safeguard against another breach of its own ruling by a member state.

'France's decision must mark the end of a sad episode in the history of the European Union.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Oct 3, 2002
Words:514
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