France PM halts fuel tax rise after protests

Paris, Tuesday

France’s PM has announced a six-month suspension of a fuel tax rise which has led to weeks of violent protests.

Edouard Philippe said that people’s anger must be heard, and the measures would not be applied until there had been proper debate with those affected.

The protests have hit major French cities, causing considerable damage for the past three weekends.

The “gilets jaunes” (yellow vests) protests have now grown to reflect more widespread anger at the government.

Three people have died since the unrest began and the resulting violence and vandalism – notably when statues were smashed at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris last Saturday – have been widely condemned.

“Yellow vests” are so called because they have taken to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow clothing that is required to be carried in every vehicle by French law.

The movement has grown via social media and has supporters across the political spectrum. President Emmanuel Macron was elected last year with an overwhelming mandate for sweeping reform, but his popularity has fallen sharply in recent months.

Mr Macron has accused his political opponents of hijacking the movement in order to block the reforms.

Yellow vests spokesman Benjamin Cauchy said the move was “either a disguised political snub or… to make fun of the French and put the tax back in six months”.

Bruno Retailleau, the Senate leader of the centre-right opposition, the Republicans, said the suspension was “absolutely inadequate”.

Fears that violent protests in the capital could continue next weekend have led Paris St German to postpone their League 1 home football match on Saturday. -BBC

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