The National Farmers' Union has warned there is no way of knowing how long the French government may be able to spin out its illegal ban on British beef. As UK farmers' anger mounts over the illegal ban, NFU president Ben Gill said that it could last for months, or even years. France was using the ban to protect its domestic meat markets as its general election approached, he said. "The situation can only be described as an intolerable farce. France is still refusing to abide by the law. At the moment, it is making a mockery of the European Union." The European Court of Justice ruled in December last year that France was breaking the law and it has since failed to lift the ban. The NFU is now waiting for the Advocate General to give an opinion on the case after submitting oral evidence at a new round of hearings in the European Court of Justice this week, with the support of DEFRA. That means a further three months delay in the legal action the NFU started after the French imposed a veto on British beef imports in August 1999, following the BSE crisis. The European court's next ruling will be made by the end of summer or early autumn. The European Commission this week sent France formal notice that it must lift the ban. If the reply is unsatisfactory it is expected to send a final warning, before seeking punitive fines. Greece, the only other country which has had fines imposed, had to pay E20,000 a day for failing to comply with a ruling on waste disposal. In the case of France fines are expected to be of tens of thousands of euros a day. But there could be years of correspondence with the European Court of Justice, and more hearings, the NFU said. Gill said: "France cannot go on in this high-handed way. If the system is to blame then it needs to be changed." {{NEWS }}