French given another week to lift beef ban

BRUSSELS IS unexpectedly giving France an extra week to lift its embargo on British beef before it faces court action.

The European Commission agreed yesterday to give the French government an extra seven days to reply to the second and final stage of legal warning, after complaints from Paris that it had not had enough time to respond properly.

The move is a setback for David Byrne, the European commissioner for health and consumer protection, who has already extended the deadline once, because of a technical mix-up when the initial warning letter was sent. Commission officials expect the matter to reach court early in January.

The Tories accused Brussels and the Government of "dither and delay" and warned that the postponement made it less likely that German states would lift their beef ban.

Tim Yeo, the Tory agriculture spokesman, seized on the delay as further evidence of the Government's failure to act decisively on the issue. "It is a total fiasco, which would be farcical if it wasn't so extremely serious. It is the old, old story of those who play the game getting away with it again," he said.

"The Government could have started legal action soon after 1 August and have dithered about ever since then. The poor British beef farmers are the ones being made to suffer. If we don't take real action against France, how on earth are we going to persuade the Germans to lift their ban?"

The first deadline for Paris to reply or have the matter referred directly to the European Court of Justice was last Sunday at midnight. Brusselsextended that because of a technical error in the letter, over a "reasoned opinion", which constitutes the final legal warning before court action.

When it sent the letter for the second time, France was given until midnight tonight to reply.

The European Commission decided yesterday to allow that deadline to be stretched to 30 December apparently because of fears that the court might criticise it for giving Paris too little time to prepare.

French officials said that the reasons for the delay concerned the difficulty of agreeing a legally defensible text among all the government departments.

Yesterday, at its last meeting of the year, the European Commission agreed, apparently because of fears that the court might criticise it for giving Paris too little time to prepare.

The decision, though annoying for the British Government, is not expected to change the outcome. A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said: "It is up to the commission to decide how to pursue the case."

A spokeswoman for Mr Byrne said: "The commission did not want to run a procedural risk in the event of this case going to court, and therefore accepted that France was given a very short deadline and has the right to request a longer one."

Yesterday's commission meeting also decided to delegate "the final decision to take France to the European Court of Justice" to Romano Prodi, the European Commission president, and to Mr Byrne. However, they could opt to refer the decision back to another meeting of the commission,which would delay the matter until after the next scheduled gathering on 12 January.

Meanwhile, Britain announced that the 30-month rule, which sets the maximum age at which cattle can be slaughtered for human consumption, will not be lifted in the near future.

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
i100
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
Sport
footballBut the Newcastle United midfielder's news has 'left his mistress furious'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style