ALTHOUGH the French Government has finally lifted its illegal ban on British beef, the National Farmers' Union is demanding that the country be punished for "years of evasion and prevarication."
The EU in general lifted the ban in 1999, after declaring that British beef was no longer at risk from BSE contamination, but France - which once imported beef worth £240 million annually - continued the ban despite facing fines of hundreds of millions of pound from the European Court.
Those fines have yet to be paid - and the NFU is still suing in the European courts for compensation for British beef producers who lost such a vital market.
Whether or not the French will cough up is a moot point - and the ban was extremely popular with French farmers, whose votes were crucial in the recent Presidential elections.
NFU president Ben Gill, who farms near York, says the French must not go unpunished and added: "France's decision must mark the end of a sad and sorry episode in the history of the European Union. The French have cynically exploited false consumer protection issues in a shameless attempt to protect their own beef producers.
"The European Commission must not let the matter drop now that the French have lifted the ban. The EC must be able to take rapid punitive action in the future."