"Yesterday's meeting in Brussels was a further step towards restoring trade in British beef, and strengthened our hand in getting the matter resolved quickly. Commissioner Byrne, Minister Glavany and I made clear our shared commitment to protecting consumers and to resolving France's current difficulties with meeting its obligation to allow UK beef imports. We identified five specific questions on which further work will provide a way forward.
"Last Friday, independent experts gave a clear endorsement of the Date Based Export Scheme (DBES). Commissioner Byrne and I agree that the DBES is not negotiable. The five questions do not compromise this. They are essentially about how compliance with the Scheme is enforced.
"Today, Commissioner Byrne has made clear his timetable for the coming days. He expects a response from the French Government by Thursday 11 November, and is planning to make his final concluding report to the European Commission on Tuesday 16 November. Senior experts from the UK and French Governments will meet in Brussels on Friday, under Commission chairmanship, to look in detail at the five questions. This is a tightly-constrained discussion between officials, nothing like the wide-ranging review by independent scientists that happened last week. I expect that we will be able to show that our measures fully meet all the concerns that have been raised.
"If that is the outcome, and if the French authorities accept it, then it will enable them to signal within days that they will lift the ban. If they do not, we will have lost nothing. It will remain open to the Commission to launch legal action."