French bring down the barricades

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Slowly, and often grumpily, the oil blockade which brought France close to a standstill began to lift yesterday.

Slowly, and often grumpily, the oil blockade which brought France close to a standstill began to lift yesterday.

Farmers unions and haulage federations ordered their members to dismantle the barricades after deciding the they could wring no more concessions from the government.

Although some truck owners and farmers in central France, Brittany, Normandy, and a scattering of other places, were still refusing to abandon their six-day siege of oil refineries and depots, it appeared that the worst of the crisis was over.

The breakthrough came in when the government jettisoned its earlier refusal to provide additional oil tax-breaks for farmers. A £40m package - including the back-dating of an already promised tax cut to the beginning of the year and special subsidies for greenhouse growers - persuaded two unions to call off the protest.

Although the deal was dismissed as inadequate by many farmers, they had begun to move their tractors, combined harvesters and other heavy machinery from dozens of barricades by yesterday afternoon.

With one truckers' federation, the UNTR, having accepted a £110m tax package on Friday, a second, more militant federation, UNOSTRA, reluctantly ordered its members to lift the siege of oil refineries and depots yesterday.

Since the taxi-drivers had already been satisfied by a 4.5 per cent fare rise, this left only a few die-hard truckers and farmers, ambulance companies and a motley collection of crane owners, driving schools and recovery firms to continue the protests.

There were still more than 50 barriers in place last night (compared to twice that number at the height of the blockade) but tankers had already fanned out from other, unblocked refineries and depots to begin the long process of re-stocking service stations.

Comments