The news that exports of French agricultural products to Britain rose last year despite the strength of public opinion against France's refusal to lift the UK beef exports ban will probably provoke wide Gallic smiles down the Champs Elysées. But as smug Paris officials slaver into their cognacs this Easter, they would do well to recall the responsible comments made on our side of the water last autumn. Striving to quell obvious anger, it was Tony Blair who warned in the Commons that a tit-for-tat consumer product boycott would be damaging for both countries, costing thousands of French and British jobs. So, fortunately, the point has been heeded by most of those who contemplated a boycott of all things French. But as the row becomes an issue for the courts, we are fast approaching the stage when fans of the politically absurd are in for a field day. For unless there's a sudden climbdown in Paris ­ which looks highly unlikely ­ on July 1 the French will take on a six months presidency of the EU, assuming stewardship of Community affairs when they are in clear breach of its law. And now the recent dignified silence on the issue has been shattered by jumped up Paris officials again putting two fingers up to Brussels and Britain to repeat the line that there's no chance of the ban being lifted. Inevitably, the legal process, as the Commission and the aggrieved NFU both take the issue to law, will be lengthy ­ no consolation for the UK farmers and traders hit by the protectionist embargo. So it's time for Messrs Blair, Nick Brown and Co, to restore the diplomatic pressure to persuade Paris to see the error of its ways. And perhaps it would also be advisable for the many traders who regularly do business in French food and drink to join the diplomatic chorus? The issue cannot be allowed to fester in the files of lawyers' offices in Brussels and Paris. Failure to reach agreement by July 1 would not only be damaging for the EU but the resultant publicity could resurrect those product boycotts Blair is so anxious to avoid. Clive Beddall, Editor {{LETTERS }}