French government to announce halt in fuel tax rise

Protesters rocked the capital over the weekend, but the government is set to announce concessions today

The French government is to announce a moratorium on the rise in fuel tax this morning (Tuesday December 4); one of the primary demands made by the Gilets Jaunes protesters in recent weeks.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is expected to confirm the news later this morning.

The rise in tax had been expected to come into force on January 1, 2019, but this measure is likely to halt the increase for at least several months.

The PM had been due to meet with several representatives of the Gilets Jaunes fuel movement today, but they called off the meeting after reportedly receiving death threats from extremists.

The halt to the tax rise comes just two days after President Emmanuel Macron called an emergency meeting in Paris with Mr Philippe and interior minister Christophe Castaner, after rioting and violence hit the capital.

Further concessions to the Gilets Jaunes demands are also expected to be announced later today, with reports suggesting they may address protesters’ concerns about national buying power.

Yet, this does not appear to have appeased the movement completely, which has the support of 72% of French people despite the escalating violence, according to a recent poll.

Benjamin Cauchy, a Gilets Jaunes representative, said: “We are still waiting for a commission into ecological taxation, and for action on the evaluation of people’s salaries [and buying power]; and we are waiting for a political ‘electric shock’ when it comes to the representation [of the demands] of citizens.”

The MP for Vaucluse (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur), Julien Aubert, is also demanding that the government open a parliamentary inquiry into environmental taxation, to track exactly where so-called “green taxes” go - another primary Gilets Jaunes demand.

The concession comes after rioting brought Paris - and other cities in France - to a standstill over the weekend.

Three people have now died since the protests began three weeks ago, with Saturday’s violence dubbed “the worst riots to hit France since 1968”.

Over 400 people were arrested after Saturday’s riots, with the Paris courts struggling to process the sharp increase in cases. As of this morning, 163 people had already been dealt with, and 73 had already appeared before the magistrate.

Many of the accused have been released, with some having their trial date postponed, and the worst offenders handed prison sentences.

Yesterday, President Macron visited the scenes of the worst violence, receiving both cheers and jeers as he inspected the damage, and thanked police officers for their work in maintaining order.

Mr Macron had previously rejected calls to halt the fuel tax rise, saying that it was necessary to help fund the country’s move to a low-emission economy.

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