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Volume 972: debated on Thursday 25 October 1979

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps the Government propose to take to ensure that the recent decision of the European Court declaring the French ban on sheepmeat imports from the United Kingdom to be illegal, shall be fully enforced.

I have received a letter from the French Minister of Agri- culture about imports of United Kingdom sheepmeat into France. The letter does not state clearly or categorically that the French Government propose to comply with the recent decision of the European Court by admitting United Kingdom sheepmeat immediately, freely and permanently into the French market without restriction, levy or any other impediment. I have therefore asked the Commissioner and our ambassador in Paris to put to the French Government the simple question: will you as from this week permanently allow free access of British sheepmeat to the French market free of all levies and restrictions? If the answer is "No" the Community remains in a situation of crisis.The reason for my doubts lies in the ambiguities of the French Minister's letter. The first paragraph states that imports of sheepmeat from the United Kingdom can resume from the week of 22–28 October. The second paragraph says that the resulting purchases

"should make it possible to observe the patterns of trade traditionally established in periods when the frontier is open".

If this implies any form of quantitative limit, based on past trade which was subject to enormous levies, it would be wholly illegal. The third paragraph says that the meat so purchased will be stocked by ONIBEV, the French intervention agency for meat. This seems to imply that it will not be free to be sold in France. This is also the impression that the British meat trade have been given today.

I hope that M. Mehaignerie will remove all these doubts and uncertainties by stating clearly and unambiguously that France will comply immediately with the unequivocal decision of the European Court.