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Tuesday 23 April 2019

Macron postpones yellow vest response as fire devastates Notre Dame Cathedral

The president was planning to announce a series of measures after three months of a national debate.

Emmanuel Macron (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
Emmanuel Macron (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

By Sylvie Corbet, Associated Press

French President Emmanuel Macron has postponed an important address to the nation that was to lay out his response to the yellow vest crisis because of the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral.

He was planning to announce a series of measures after three months of a national debate that encouraged ordinary people to propose changes to France’s economy and democracy.

Instead he headed to the scene of the fire in Paris.

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Firefighters tackle the blaze in Paris (Michel Euler/AP)

When he does speak, Mr Macron is expected to respond to protesters’ concerns over their loss of purchasing power with possible tax cuts and measures to help retirees and single parents.

Other proposed changes could affect France’s democratic rules. Some observers say Mr Macron may open up the possibility that citizens could propose referendums.

The French leader has repeatedly said he will not reintroduce a wealth tax on the country’s richest people — one of the protesters’ major demands.

The yellow vest movement, prompted by a fuel tax hike in November, has expanded into a broader revolt against Mr Macron’s policies, which protesters see as favouring the rich and big businesses.

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Yellow vest protests in Paris (Christophe Ena/AP)

Their protests, which often turned violent, especially in the capital, provoked a major domestic crisis that sent Mr Macron’s popularity to record low levels.

The number of demonstrators has been falling in recent weeks.

Most yellow vest leaders have urged supporters not to take part in Mr Macron’s national debate, saying they did not believe the government’s offer to listen to the people.

Ingrid Levavasseur of the yellow vests published an open letter on Monday demanding measures to boost purchasing power and maintain public services.

Mr Macron has already made concessions, but they failed to stop the anger of the yellow vest movement.

In December, he abandoned the fuel tax hike, scrapped a tax increase for retirees and introduced a 100-euro (£86) monthly bonus to increase the minimum wage, a package estimated at 10 billion euros (£8.6 billion).

Press Association

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