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Saturday 15 December 2018

'No tax is worth risking unity of France', says PM after fuel U-turn

In action: A demonstrator holds a placard announcing free tolls after they opened the gates on a motorway near Biarritz, south-west France, yesterday. AP Photo/Bob Edme
In action: A demonstrator holds a placard announcing free tolls after they opened the gates on a motorway near Biarritz, south-west France, yesterday. AP Photo/Bob Edme

Henry Samuel in Paris

Emmanuel Macron bowed to demands by "yellow vest" campaigners by suspending fuel tax increases yesterday in an attempt to stem violent protests.

With pressure mounting to avoid more violence, Edouard Philippe, the prime minister, announced conciliatory measures, just days after the president insisted he would not change course. "A tax must not endanger the unity of a nation," Mr Philippe told MPs.

Planned increases in fuel taxes will be suspended for six months, as will stricter pollution tests on cars, intended as an incentive for drivers to move to cleaner vehicles. Increases in electricity and gas prices will also be pegged over the winter.

The measures come a week after €500m in sweeteners for poorer households failed to stave off last weekend's protests.

The French Democratic Confederation of Labour union welcomed the measures, calling for wage negotiations and insisting that green transition must not be abandoned in France. However, many of the 'gilets jaunes' who had been blocking roads and fuel depots around France for three weeks insisted that the measures were "too little too late" and called for fresh protests to be held on Saturday.

"We don't want crumbs, we want the whole baguette," said Benjamin Cauchy, one of the founders of the movement, who called for nothing short of a "new division of wealth in France".

The yellow vests, so-called because they wear road safety high-vis jackets, have caused havoc with traffic in the run-up to Christmas.

Thousands convened in Paris at the weekend in protests that descended into the worst riots in the city centre in 50 years. More than 200 cars were burnt and symbols of state, including the Arc de Triomphe, were damaged.

While the protests began over fuel taxes, they have become a wider revolt against the president, mainly by those in rural France. The protesters see him as a "president of the rich". Yet their demands are broad and contradictory. Many yellow vests want taxes cut but say more should be spent on public services. The prime minister pointed out that you cannot have both. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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