Judges condemn border blockades

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The Independent Online
A landmark European Court judgment could make it easier for Irish exporters hit by blockades of Welsh and Scottish ports to win compensation from Britain.

The court ruled yesterday that national authorities must actively safeguard the free movement of goods within the EU's single market. British hauliers hit by the recent French truckers' dispute could also benefit from the ruling.

Upholding a Spanish complaint, the court said the French had failed to protect the single market after rampaging French farmers, allegedly grouped in small commando-style units, repeatedly intercepted and destroyed consignments of Spanish strawberries during a 10-year campaign.

The ruling leaves it to Spanish victims to seek compensation in the national courts, but leaves little room for doubt that in this case the French are to blame for failing to do enough. "The French Republic has failed to observe the fundamental principle of the free movement of goods and the duty of cooperation which the EC Treaty imposes on the member states," it said.

Britain, which ironically backed the Spanish case, yesterday defended its record in keeping trade flowing despite accusations to the contrary from Irish exporters and hauliers. Lord Simon, the trade and competitiveness minister, said police chiefs were being told to take "all reasonable steps to allow drivers to continue their journeys in peace".

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