French government 'to suspend fuel tax increase'

The French government will announce it is suspending plans to introduce an eco-fuel tax after three weeks of increasingly violent protests, according to reports in French media.

The prime minister, Édouard Philippe, was due to meet cabinet ministers on Tuesday morning to agree a response to a weekend of rioting, looting and destruction in Paris by an extreme fringe of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement.

The tax on petrol and diesel, due to increase next month in a move towards cleaner fuels, sparked national demonstrations that quickly grew to encompass wider anger and frustration at the country’s leaders.

President Emmanuel Macron had repeatedly vowed not to give in to street rule, but has been forced to reconsider after the worst violence in Paris in half a century.

AFP reported on Tuesday that Philippe would declare the fuel tax rises were being suspended during a meeting of MPs from the ruling La République En Marche (LREM). The PM met leaders of France’s main political parties on Monday.

On Monday evening, Macron held an emergency meeting at the Elysée Palace to deal with the political and social crisis, the most serious since he was elected on a centrist, reforming programme last May.

Stanislas Guerini, the leader of the En Marche parliamentary group, told French radio: “While there’s a debate, we stop writing, have a pause … there has to be a pause so the debate can happen.”

Philippe was due to meet representatives from the gilets jaunes on Tuesday afternoon, but the meeting was cancelled after the unofficial representatives were allegedly threatened and disowned by other protesters.

The protest movement, which has no organisation or leaders, has broadened its demands to include Macron’s resignation and the dissolution of the French parliament.

Macron has postponed a two-day visit to Serbia this week to deal with the crisis. On Saturday, police fought running battles with masked protesters who painted graffiti on the Arc de Triomphe, pulled down iron railings at the Tuileries Gardens, torched cars, set fire to buildings and looted luxury stores.

Three hundred and 78 people were arrested; police said many were older males – aged between 30 and 40, from outside the French capital who had come intending to fight police.


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