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Borders paralysed in tobacco protest

Tobacconists paralyse German and Spanish border traffic in protest on prices and EU bid to increase imports

PROTESTING tobacconists staged a go-slow protest at the German and Spanish borders in protest at rising cigarette prices and the end of restrictions on the amount of tobacco people can bring in from other EU states.

Operation “escargot” virtually closed the Pont de l’Europe linking Strasbourg and Kehl in Germany as tabac owners from Alsace and Lorraine called on MPs to ignore EU demands to get rid of the five-carton limit on personal tobacco imports.

In the south-west, protesting buralistes from the Gironde, the Landes and Pyrénées-Atlantiques set up rolling road-blocks at Urrugne (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) and blockaded the péage at Boulou (Pyrénées-Orientales).

The buralistes say cigarette prices are €0.70 cheaper in Germany than in France, where tobacco is taxed at 85 per cent, and €1.70 cheaper in Luxembourg. Spanish prices are even cheaper, with a carton being €20.50 cheaper.

They backed MPs who voted in committee against plans to get rid of the limit on personal tobacco imports and want the support of MPs when the move is debated later this week.

The EU says the limit of five cartons is an illegal restriction on trade, but buralistes hit back saying that tobacco is already branded as a “dangerous” substance and there should be no open market across borders.

Tobacconists have promised to repeat the go-slow protest every Sunday until MPs listen to them. They say that 5,000 tabacs have closed across France since 2003, costing between 12,000 and 15,000 jobs.

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