Angry French and Spanish farmers block motorway in 24-hour action

Several points on the border are closed, or traffic is being diverted, with up to 1,000 tractors blockading the roads

Several points along the French-Spanish border are blockaded in a new farmer protest today

Farmers in France have joined their Spanish counterparts to block the border between France and Spain today (Monday, June 3) in a protest over farming taxes and food insecurity.

As many as 3,000 farmers and 1,000 tractors are at the blockade points across the Pyrénées, from the Pays Basque to Roussillon. 

In France, the protests were organised by la Coordination rurale and farming association Les Ultras de l'A64, led by farmer Jérôme Bayle (from Montesquieu-Volvestre in Haute-Garonne). In Spain, the farming movements including the AEGA and Revolta Pagesa in Spain organised the protests. 

The protesters’ stated aim today is to “to prevent goods from crossing the border”.

Read also: French farmers plan new motorway blockage protest for June 3 

Where are the blockades?

The blockade points include Biriatou, and Le Perthus, and between Haute-Garonne and the Val d’Aran, where around 80 tractors are stationed.

The col du Pourtalet, which links Laruns (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) to Sallent-de-Gallego in Spain, is also being blocked.

Around 200 tractors alone have convened on the road towards Le Perthus and La Jonquera, on the AP7 motorway in Catalunya. La Seu d'Urgell, Bossost, Puigcerda, and the Arès pass are also blocked.

The protest began at 10:00 and is set to last for 24 hours.

Cars are being allowed to pass through the péage at Biriatou, but traffic has been reduced to a single lane. In other places, vehicles are being rerouted via a different road.

Motorway authority Vinci Autoroutes has confirmed that the protests have completely closed several exits on the A63 towards Spain. These are Biriatou (1), Saint-Jean-de-Luz Sud (2), Saint-Jean-de-Luz Nord (3), and Biarritz La Négresse (4).

There is also a mandatory exit in Ariège on the A66, at the Pamiers-nord (3) interchange, towards Foix.

The Pyrénées-Orientales department is likely to see the largest mobilisation, with the A9 closed in both directions. To help ease congestion, there is a mandatory exit at Leucate (40) towards Spain, while the exit and entry are closed at Perpignan Nord (41), Perpignan Sud (42) and Le Boulou (43).

The Franco-Spanish Aragnouet-Bielsa tunnel is expected to remain open, but traffic is likely to be heavy on the roads leading to the pass.

The Puymorens tunnel towards Bourg-Madame and Puigcerda is blocked, but access to the Andorra is still possible.

Why are the farmers protesting? 

The protesters are asking for changes at a European Union and national level. 

Their demands include an overhaul of the agricultural tax system, a tax rebate on agricultural energy, improved food security, and support for access to solar power systems on buildings.

Jérôme Devic, a farmer from Gensac-sur-Garonne, told La Dépêche: “This is historic. Now we're moving up a gear by coordinating our action with our Spanish counterparts. We need to standardise norms and energy prices for everyone.”

Farmers held another protest at the start of the year, which prompted Prime Minister Gabriel Attal and Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau to announce a number of emergency measures. 

Read also: Travel disrupted around France as farmers blockade Paris and Lyon 
Read also: Can we expect more French farmer blockades as new law debated? 

However, just six days before the European elections, farmers have stepped up their action. 

“What we want is to show the government and Europe that we can no longer work with the costs we have today and the standards we have,” said Benjamin Loste, President of the Coordination rurale des Pyrénées-Atlantiques, to BFMTV on Sunday (June 2). 

“We are not at all competitive in the markets. We are totally unproductive. We can't work with such a burden,” he said.