Macron's misery: French President 'completely bungled' coronavirus response – anger grows

The perception is that he has completely bungled it

Dr Joseph Downing

Dr Joseph Downing, a Fellow in Nationalism at the London School of Economics, was speaking against a backdrop of fresh Yellow Vest protests and widespread demonstrations against job and wage cuts, plus France recording more than 13,000 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday. Irrespective of the reality, France’s President was saddled with a serious image problem, said Dr Downing, undercut by concerns over shortages of PPE earlier this year and a lack of testing capacity. He told Express.co.uk: “The perception is that he has completely bungled it.

“He’s got a problem in the sense that you are in trouble if you do, and you are in trouble if you don’t.

“If you are trying to look competent and not overspend and be responsible for public finances, if you then invest in all that stuff and then it is not that serious, you are left with a massive stockpile of stuff you don’t need you don’t look that credible.

“I think that is one of the issues that Macron faces.”

Dr Downing added: “The thing with Macron is it makes him look even more like he doesn’t care enough about people because he is concerned more about resources.

Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron is beset by troubles and widely seen as aloof and detached, said Dr Downing (Image: GETTY)

Demonstrations Toulouse

France has seen widespread demonstrations in recent days – such as this one in Toulouse (Image: PA)

“It strengthens that existing perception that he wants to take away our pensions, he also doesn’t care if we die while he is in the Elysees surrounded by all his experts.

“One of the political masterstrokes that Boris Johnson pulled was that he actually had COVID-19 and nearly died.

“Whereas there was a perception in France that Macron had a tan throughout the whole pandemic, with people asking how that was possible, he had a haircut, he looked immaculate.

“When the Beirut explosion happened he quickly turned up and unveiled all these policies for the Lebanese people and back in France people were saying he was kind of absent during the pandemic.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus warning – ‘Twindemic’ a threat as UK ‘seeing second wave’

Boris Johnson

Unlike Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron has yet to contract COVID-19 (Image: GETTY)

He added: “Some leaders in a disaster situation can become more popular and acceptable.

“He hasn’t – he’s remained aloof and a little bit distant and a little bit absent.

“For me it can be expressed in my two failed attempts to get to Paris this year.

“I tried to go in January and it was shut down by strikes and I tried to go again in April and it was shut down by the lockdown.

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Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron pictured arriving to watch a stage of the Tour de France (Image: PA)

Yellow Vest protesters

Yellow Vest protesters are once again making their voices heard (Image: GETTY)

“One of which – the pandemic – is clearly not his fault.

“But the first one was definitely about his attempts to reform and people’s pushback against it.

“So I definitely think coming hot on the heels of that – the economic damage caused by strikes, pension reforms, Yellow Vests, whatever – then to have the perception that he has bungled this as well, it does not look good.”

Despite the lack of enthusiasm for his Presidency, Dr Downing said it still appears highly probable Mr Macron would be re-elected in 2022, which he suggested was a problem in itself.

He explained: “Who is the credible opponent for him? Nobody.

Yellow Vests

Some Yellow Vest protesters have explicitly singled out Mr Macron (Image: GETTY)

“There is nobody out there – there is no Keir Starmer in France, basically.

“That suggests we are going to have another Macron/Le Pen run-off – in which case he would probably win again.

“It is quite a serious problem for the French political system because it fuels those voices on the fringes which are saying it is not about democracy, it is about controlling you.

“Traditionally, we had a situation where they had a President in power and don’t trust him so they get him out via the ballot box.

“Now you have a shift away from a particular candidate to a distrust of the entire system.”

Yellow Vests

Dr Downing said the Yellow Vest movement was a by-product of anger the establishment (Image: GETTY)

This had direct parallels with Brexit, Dr Downing said.

He explained: “The resentment is very similar to the justification given via the Leave camp which is, there is a stitch-up by the liberal Whitehall elite.

“Another thing is how does the EU look and to be honest they looked for about three months like they did not exist.

“Borders were closed, Schengen was suspended, it was about Macron, Merkel, Johnson.

“The EU did not play a unifying role through the pandemic.”



Macron's misery: French President 'completely bungled' coronavirus response – anger grows

The perception is that he has completely bungled it

Dr Joseph Downing

Dr Joseph Downing, a Fellow in Nationalism at the London School of Economics, was speaking against a backdrop of fresh Yellow Vest protests and widespread demonstrations against job and wage cuts, plus France recording more than 13,000 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday. Irrespective of the reality, France’s President was saddled with a serious image problem, said Dr Downing, undercut by concerns over shortages of PPE earlier this year and a lack of testing capacity. He told Express.co.uk: “The perception is that he has completely bungled it.

“He’s got a problem in the sense that you are in trouble if you do, and you are in trouble if you don’t.

“If you are trying to look competent and not overspend and be responsible for public finances, if you then invest in all that stuff and then it is not that serious, you are left with a massive stockpile of stuff you don’t need you don’t look that credible.

“I think that is one of the issues that Macron faces.”

Dr Downing added: “The thing with Macron is it makes him look even more like he doesn’t care enough about people because he is concerned more about resources.

Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron is beset by troubles and widely seen as aloof and detached, said Dr Downing (Image: GETTY)

Demonstrations Toulouse

France has seen widespread demonstrations in recent days – such as this one in Toulouse (Image: PA)

“It strengthens that existing perception that he wants to take away our pensions, he also doesn’t care if we die while he is in the Elysees surrounded by all his experts.

“One of the political masterstrokes that Boris Johnson pulled was that he actually had COVID-19 and nearly died.

“Whereas there was a perception in France that Macron had a tan throughout the whole pandemic, with people asking how that was possible, he had a haircut, he looked immaculate.

“When the Beirut explosion happened he quickly turned up and unveiled all these policies for the Lebanese people and back in France people were saying he was kind of absent during the pandemic.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus warning – ‘Twindemic’ a threat as UK ‘seeing second wave’

Boris Johnson

Unlike Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron has yet to contract COVID-19 (Image: GETTY)

He added: “Some leaders in a disaster situation can become more popular and acceptable.

“He hasn’t – he’s remained aloof and a little bit distant and a little bit absent.

“For me it can be expressed in my two failed attempts to get to Paris this year.

“I tried to go in January and it was shut down by strikes and I tried to go again in April and it was shut down by the lockdown.

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Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron pictured arriving to watch a stage of the Tour de France (Image: PA)

Yellow Vest protesters

Yellow Vest protesters are once again making their voices heard (Image: GETTY)

“One of which – the pandemic – is clearly not his fault.

“But the first one was definitely about his attempts to reform and people’s pushback against it.

“So I definitely think coming hot on the heels of that – the economic damage caused by strikes, pension reforms, Yellow Vests, whatever – then to have the perception that he has bungled this as well, it does not look good.”

Despite the lack of enthusiasm for his Presidency, Dr Downing said it still appears highly probable Mr Macron would be re-elected in 2022, which he suggested was a problem in itself.

He explained: “Who is the credible opponent for him? Nobody.

Yellow Vests

Some Yellow Vest protesters have explicitly singled out Mr Macron (Image: GETTY)

“There is nobody out there – there is no Keir Starmer in France, basically.

“That suggests we are going to have another Macron/Le Pen run-off – in which case he would probably win again.

“It is quite a serious problem for the French political system because it fuels those voices on the fringes which are saying it is not about democracy, it is about controlling you.

“Traditionally, we had a situation where they had a President in power and don’t trust him so they get him out via the ballot box.

“Now you have a shift away from a particular candidate to a distrust of the entire system.”

Yellow Vests

Dr Downing said the Yellow Vest movement was a by-product of anger the establishment (Image: GETTY)

This had direct parallels with Brexit, Dr Downing said.

He explained: “The resentment is very similar to the justification given via the Leave camp which is, there is a stitch-up by the liberal Whitehall elite.

“Another thing is how does the EU look and to be honest they looked for about three months like they did not exist.

“Borders were closed, Schengen was suspended, it was about Macron, Merkel, Johnson.

“The EU did not play a unifying role through the pandemic.”



Call Britain's bluff! ‘Worried’ French politician hopes Boris’s Brexit plan is ‘tactic’

France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs admitted he is “worried” about whether there will be a post-Brexit deal between the UK and the EU. But Clément Beaune insisted an agreement could still be struck.

He said: “No agreement at the end of the year, that means customs duties, which is not good news for fishermen or tourism in France.

“But we are preparing for it, just in case, with support measures, particularly for fishing.”

The Prime Minister sparked controversy this week with his plan to override key elements of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The French politician said he hopes the move was a “tactic”.

He told France Inter: “If he wants to leave Europe without a deal, that’s a bad thing, but he has to tell us.

“But I hope it is a tactic and it will stop.”

Mr Beaune insisted a bad deal would be “much worse” than no agreement.

His comments come as the EU is demanding Britain abandons the UK Internal Market Bill despite Mr Johnson agreeing to give MPs a vote before the Government can use powers which would breach the divorce deal struck with the bloc last year.

READ MORE: Boris sends EU extraordinary red alert warning

He said: “We have a habit of not commenting on comments by third parties.

“But what I can say more generally is that I can point to our hundreds – literally hundreds – of international agreements signed with very, very different third parties of all kinds.

“And I think that they testify to – as I think you say in English – a rather splendid track record when it comes to carrying out negotiations in good faith, and indeed even concluding them.

“So what I would simply do is ask you to go and talk to those third parties with whom we have signed these agreements and further they will testify to the quality of our negotiation.

“And I think that Michel Barnier showed in the context of the negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement that even on extremely complex and politically sensitive issues the Commission and indeed the EU negotiate in perfectly good faith.”

Chief negotiators Lord Frost and Michel Barnier were due to meet for informal talks this week.

With just months to go until the transition period ends, a major breakthrough is needed for the two sides to finally reach a post-Brexit deal.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.



EU rejects Boris Johnson's Brexit Bill compromise – angry French claim move 'won’t work'

European Union officials insisted the Government’s Internal Market Bill would still be in breach of international law even if MPs are offered more oversight over the legislation. The Prime Minister offered to work with Conservative backbenchers to defuse a revolt led by Commons justice committee chairman Sir Bob Neil. Under the proposed alterations to the Bill, MPs would be able to vote on whether Downing Street was allowed to tear up the Withdrawal Agreement.

But early interpretations of the plan were rejected by the bloc because the legislation still contains powers for ministers to overrule EU customs checks and state aid rules for Northern Ireland.

French Europe minister Clement Beaune angrily said: “I’m telling the British it won’t work.

“I hope this is a tactic and it will stop. It is a bad tactic. And it was demonstrated last week that we are not divided or weak.”

The compromise is not enough for the EU to withdraw its threat of legal action, insiders say.

A parliamentary “lock” is still a “no, no no”, according to one EU official familiar with the discussions in Brussels.

The bloc wants Mr Johnson to scrap the powers, “not put them in an ‘emergency use only box’ that MPs can unseal at a moment’s notice”, the source added.

European Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis said the EU would not continue trade talks with the UK until the legislation is scrapped.

He said: “We are concerned about the behaviour of the British Government.

“If the UK does not comply with the exit agreement, there will no longer be a bassi for a free-trade agreement between the EU and the UK.

“The UK Government must correct this before we continue to negotiate our political and economic relations.”

Despite the bloc’s threat to walk away from talks, Michel Barnier has been ordered to remain at the negotiating table.

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“We have a legal track for this under the Withdrawal Agreement – let’s take our time with it.

“We would be doing a favour to the Brexiteers by suspending the talks. So that was never actually an option.”

The bloc is concerned a collapse in talks at such a critical juncture would not give both sides enough time to “reconnect” before the end of the transition period.



Macron on brink: ‘Trust’ in French President plummets in horror poll

According to an internet poll published today, around 62 percent of French people admitted to not trusting Mr Macron and the government in the wake of the deadly pandemic.

This result is six points up from the previous poll carried out in August, while trust in the French government dropped five points.

The Elabe poll for BFMTV, which asked 1,000 people in France aged 18 and over, also found nearly one in two people (47 percent) think the French government is not taking “enough precautions” to limit the spread of the virus.

However, around 20 percent considered the government is taking “too many precautions” with 33 percent saying they are doing “just the right thing”.

Around 84 percent of people were “in favour” of continuing to work from home to curb the spread of the virus.

Emmanuel Macron faces crisis as trust plummets

Emmanuel Macron faces crisis as trust plummets (Image: Getty)

France has been hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic

France has been hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic (Image: Getty)

While 68 percent said they are “worried” about the virus, a drop of six points compared to the previous poll in August.

In contrast 31 percent said they were “not worried”.

Earlier this month, the French President sparked fury online after footage of a visit to a high school was shared on social media.

In the video, Mr Macron was seen removing his face mask and coughing into his hand while addressing students in the school.

READ MORE: Macron ordered to ‘act’ as Paris firms panic amid threat of protests 

Face masks are now mandatory across France

Face masks are now mandatory across France (Image: Getty)

This sparked outrage as French officials have demanded citizens ensure they cough or sneeze into their elbow to stop the stop of the virus.

France has been one of the worst hit European countries following the outbreak of coronavirus.

Over the weekend, more than 10,000 new daily cases of coronavirus were reported, sparking fears of a second wave across Europe.

Mr Macron suggested there could be a new crackdown if the number of infections continues to rise.

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Coronavirus cases around the world

Coronavirus cases around the world (Image: Express)

During a meeting with medical and scientific advisers, Mr Macron said: “We need to be as transparent and clear as possible.

“We need to be demanding and realistic without giving into any kind of panic.”

Mr Macron urged the public to be more disciplined about social distancing, washing their hands and wearing masks.

He added: “I solemnly appeal today to the sense of responsibility of each one of you.

Emmanuel Macron facing political crisis

Emmanuel Macron facing political crisis (Image: Getty)

“The only way we will succeed in stopping this epidemic is if all of us are vigilant and stick together.”

French Prime Minister Jean Castex played down the threat of a second nationwide lockdown and said measures would include fast-tracked testing and targeting local areas.

He said: “The virus is with us for several more months and we must manage to live with it without letting ourselves get drawn once again into a narrative of nationwide lockdown.”

Following the outbreak of the deadly virus, both Mr Macron and Mr Castex have seen their popularity plummet.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex

French Prime Minister Jean Castex (Image: Getty)

Last month, an Ifop poll for Le Journal du Dimanche revealed Mr Macron’s popularity was at just 36 percent.

And the number of people who were not satisfied with the President was 63 percent.

This is a drop of one percent in the same survey carried out in June.

The popularity of Mr Castex also fell dramatically, from 55 per cent of people who liked him in July to 48 percent in August.

The rate of dissatisfied people soared from 40 to 46 percent.

The country has seen more than 30,000 people die from the deadly disease with more than 300,000 people infected.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega



Furious French MEP confronts EU on its 'centralised, reductive and debilitating' vision

Jerome Riviere, a member of Marine Le Pen’s right-wing National Rally party, vowed to fight the EU’s “centralised, reductive and debilitating” vision. And he condemned the European Commission’s leaders for their “mad desire” to interfere with the sovereignty of member states, particularly on defence issues.

We will continue to oppose this centralised, reductive and debilitating vision

Jerome Riviere

Mr Riviere, head of the French delegation of the European Parliament’s Identity and Democracy Group, also criticised the bloc’s response to growing tensions between Greece and Turkey in the eastern Mediterannean.

He said: “Since the start of this term, certain groups under the benevolent gaze of the Commission have manifested a mad desire to interfere in a sovereign domain par excellence, which belongs only to nations, that of defence.

“After the European defence fund that would support armament programmes without proper validation, they attempted with this test to regulate the exports of armaments.”

Jerome Riviere

Jerome Riviere has launched a blistering attack on the EU (Image: GETTY)

He continued: “All pretexts are good for taking away the last parts of sovereignty from the member states.

“So much blindness! More than ever the world is uncertain.

“In the Mediterranean, this historical, economic and cultural space, tensions are bursting, which will shape our future.

“The European Union is showing its inability to act. Worse, it marks strong differences between a continental bloc led by Germany and the countries of the south.

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Jerome Riviere

Jerome Riviere said Brussels wanted to distance EU citizens from their own national governments (Image: GETTY)

“Threatened by Turkey, it is indeed France which – through its sovereign policy of arms exports, on the autonomous reserves of its Army and Navy – delivers to Greece in record time the Rafales and the Exocets that it requires.

“Recent events show the absurdity of these projects.

“We will continue to oppose this centralised, reductive and debilitating vision, which consists of distancing the peoples from the nations and their parliaments, which are the only legitimate centres of political decision-making.”

Mr Riviere lashed out after Turkey rejected a statement by the EU’s seven Mediterranean states as biased and “detached from reality”.

NATO members Turkey and Greece have overlapping claims to continental shelves and rights to potential energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

Tensions flared last month after Ankara sent its Oruc Reis survey vessel to map out possible oil and gas drilling prospects in waters claimed by Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.

In a joint statement France, Italy, Spain, Malta, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus said the bloc would draw up a list of new sanctions on Turkey at the end of September unless Ankara negotiates to resolve the dispute with Greece and Cyprus.

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Oruc Reis

Turkey enraged Greece when it sent a research vessel into disputed waters (Image: GETTY)

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Greece must “unconditionally sit at the negotiating table with Turkey” in order to achieve dialogue and cooperation in the region.

It said Athens must withdraw its military ships from around Oruc Reis in order to de-escalate tensions.

The EU has said it stands in “full support and solidarity” with Greece and Cyprus in the dispute while Athens and Nicosia have called on the bloc to sanction Turkey.

The EU will address the issue at its summit next week.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the EU had no jurisdiction on maritime boundary matters and Ankara expected the bloc to remain unbiased.

(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)



Macron SHAMED: Turkey brands French President’s intervention ‘arrogant’ in stinging jibe

Tensions between Greece and Turkey have escalated following a territorial dispute over a large portion of the East Mediterranean. Amid these tensions, Mr Macron urged fellow European states to take a firm stance against Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mr Macron made the statement during a summit on the Mediterranean island of Corsica and insisted Europe must have a united voice against Turkey.

In response, the Turkish foreign ministry denounced Mr Macron’s “arrogant” statement on the incident.

The Ministry said: “French President Macron has once again made arrogant statements, in an old colonialist style.

“The statements also promote tensions and endangers the interests of Europe and the European Union.

“Macron attacks Turkey and our president every day because we thwart his insidious projects and his dirty foreign policy games.

“Instead of posing blindly as the advocate of Greece and the Greek Cypriots, France should adopt a position favouring reconciliation and dialogue.”

In a bold move against Turkey, Mr Macron had also claimed the country deserves better leadership.

The Turkish foreign ministry, however, disputed this claim and insisted Mr Erdogan is fully supported by the public.

It added: “Our president is one of the elected leaders with the highest percentage of votes in Europe.

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Both Greece and Turkey have collided over the potential energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The two countries also share sovereignty of the island of Cyprus although Turkey only recognises the northern side.

Although the Greek military descended on the area, Mr Edorgan declared any aggression will be matched by Turkey.

Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis has demanded the EU sanction Turkey and force the state to withdraw.

Writing in The Times, he said: “Later this month EU leaders will meet in special session to decide how to respond.

“If Turkey refuses to see sense by then, I see no option but for my fellow European leaders to impose meaningful sanctions.

“Because this is no longer just about European solidarity. It is about recognising that vital interests – strategic European interests – are now at stake.



Macron accused on ‘encouraging fake news’ as fury erupts against French President

Olivier Faure, the first secretary of the Socialist Party, criticised the French President’s refusal to “involve the representatives of the nation” following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter addressed to the president, Mr Faure wrote: “We are collectively facing a democratic challenge.

“With this unprecedented crisis, no one can decide alone.

“It is more important than ever to involve the representatives of the nation. You don’t.

“Parties and group presidents are not united, not informed, not associated.

“It is not healthy for the political life of our country.

“By doing this, you encourage the development of fake news, anti-mask and conspiracy supporters.

“We must get out of this infernal battle, which is fracturing society when it should meet again.”

The socialist leader went to ask the president whether the country is “ready to face” an “upsurge in infections and hospitalisations”.

READ MORE: Yellow vests RETURN: Chaos for Emmanuel Macron as anarchy expected

This week, Patrick Kanner, president of the socialists’ senators, and Valérie Rabault, his counterpart in the Assembly, urged Prime Minister Jean Castex to resume daily communication on COVID-19.

France has seen more than 300,000 people infected with the deadly virus and more than 30,000 people have died.

Last month, Mr Macron saw his popularity drop according to a recent poll with his Prime Minister also struggling to impress.

The Ifop poll for Le Journal du Dimanche revealed Mr Macron’s popularity was at 36 percent.

And the number of people who were not satisfied with the President was 63 percent.

This is a drop of one percent in the same survey carried out in June.

The popularity of Mr Castex also fell dramatically, from 55 per cent of people who liked him in July to 48 percent in August.

The rate of dissatisfied people soared from 40 to 46 percent.

Ifop believes this is down to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Mr Castex saw his first popularity rating stand at 56 percent, which was higher than his predecessor Edouard Philippe, which was 51 percent.

The survey was carried out on August 19 and 20 with a sample of 989 people aged 18 and over.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega



Yellow vests RETURN: Chaos for Emmanuel Macron as anarchy expected on French streets

Almost two years after the gilets jaunes movement sprung up, activists are set to descend on towns and city centres on Saturday in a bid to give French families a voice in the midst of the public health crisis. The yellow vests have been gearing up for their return on social media, teaming up with anti-mask crusaders. The yellow vests announced plans for the new operation on their Facebook page, which is followed by 110,000 profiles.

Jerome Rodrigues, one of the leaders of the movement, urged people to join the ranks of the gatherings on September 1.

In a warning to Mr Macron, Mr Rodrigues called for “complete civil disobedience”.

He urged activists to refuse to reveal their identity to police officers, if asked.

He added: “I invite you that day not to show your ID even if it means going for a little walk to the police station for an identity check and spending four hours there.”

Rallies are expected across France “to give a voice” to key workers who have continued working throughout the pandemic.

MACRON YELLOW VESTS

Macron crisis: France is braced for the return of yellow vest protesters this weeken (Image: GETTY)

MACRON

President Macron is grappling with a surge in COVID-19 cases (Image: GETTY)

But the movement also claims to represent business owners who have suffered as a result of the national lockdown, including pub and restaurant owners.

Mr Rodrigues said the group wanted to stage protests “in order to make this government listen to families in France, who unfortunately will have to pay the price of a disastrous management of the health crisis for which they want us to bear the consequences, make us pay, as well as our children and grandchildren”.

A number of Facebook groups following the yellow vests have fashioned themselves as pro-democracy campaigners, including the “September 12: We are the 2nd Wave for Democracy”.

One scheduled demo will kick off on Saturday morning in the 17th arrondissement of Paris.

Marchers will make their way through the streets and finish up at the Place Saint-Pierre.

READ MORE: Emmanuel Macron has EIGHT DAYS before ‘difficult coronavirus decision’

france news yellow vest protests

Yellow vest protesters are planning a comeback (Image: GETTY)

Another march will start at the Place de la Republique before snaking through the streets to the Place de la Nation.

Police in Paris banned two planned marches, one scheduled to take place in the Champs-Elysees and the other at the Place de l’Etoile.

Police chief Dider Lallement warned the gatherings would have seen people flout social distancing rules designed to curb the spread of COVID-19.

He said the rallies were “likely to generate disturbances to public order and bring together many people without being able to guarantee compliance with hygiene and social distancing measures”.

More than 2,000 social media users have “signed up” to attend rallies this weekend.

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france news yellow vest protests

A yellow vest protester at a rally in Paris (Image: GETTY)

france news yellow vest protests

Riot police arrest a yellow vest protester (Image: GETTY)

On Thursday France recorded almost 10,000 new coronavirus cases, marking the highest single-day increase since the epidemic began.

Rallies have also been planned in other cities across France including Marseille, Toulouse, Lyon, Lille, Nice and Strasbourg.

La France Insoumise spoke out in favour of the action planned for this weekend.

In a statement, the party welcomed the movement of yellow vests, which “carries anger and legitimate demands”.

The first demonstration staged by the group in winter 2018 saw 300,000 people march calling for governmental reforms.

French think tank Jean Jaures Foundation has predicted a huge turnout, as a recent poll showed one in five people who are opposed to mandatory mask rules admitted they had taken part in yellow vest protests in the past.

More than half of those surveyed said they backed the yellow vests.

Nightclub owners are planning on swelling the ranks of the group as they have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus crisis.

Comedian Jean-Marie Bigard, who has announced his candidacy for the 2022 presidential election, recently came out in support of the yellow vests.

However, disparaging remarks made by Mr Rodrigues towards the police pushed him to “dissociate himself” from the leader of the movement.

MACRON

President Macron wears a mask (Image: GETTY)

As a result, Mr Bigard plans to support protesters in the north-western city of Brest, avoiding the gathering in Paris.

Mr Bigard said in a video: “I say no, I can’t demonstrate on Saturday with a guy who calls the police ‘Nazis’.

“I am a friend of the police as much as I am a friend of the yellow vests, that is not at all contradictory.”

Explaining his reasons for choosing to stand in the presidential election, he said: “There are nine million people in France who struggle to make ends meet from the second of the month in the seventh richest country in the world.

“I expect the worst, I have some punches to take. I stand on my own. The others force-feed themselves with the people’s money.”

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.



French luxury giant's Tiffany tie-up in tatters after tariff tiff

A $16.2-billion (€14-billion) buyout by French luxury giant Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) of US jeweler Tiffany & Co. fell through this week after the French government expressed fears over US tariffs on French goods. 

After months of talks between the two sides, LVMH finally announced plans last November to acquire Tiffany, an American icon founded in 1837. LVMH, which had coveted the US jeweler for years, is the world’s largest luxury goods conglomerate and many saw the deal as a lifeline for its US counterpart. 

But LVMH’s withdrawal had been coming for some time, after it sought to renegotiate the takeover agreement in March at the start of the lockdowns and a big fall in Tiffany’s sales. In May its senior management reportedly began cutting off even informal discussions with senior Tiffany personnel.

On Wednesday Paris-based LVMH said in a statement it could not complete the deal with Tiffany “as it stands,” citing a request from the French government on August 31 to delay the deal beyond January 6 because of the threat of US tariffs on French goods. 

The US has been threatening tariffs on luxury French products in retaliation for taxes on technology companies that have hit American firms like Amazon, Facebook and Google. 

Tiffany & Co.'s store in New York City is currently being renovated

Tiffany & Co.’s flagship store in New York City is currently being renovated

Litigation could prove costly

Tiffany immediately sued to enforce the deal, asking a Delaware court to force LVMH to complete the merger or award Tiffany damages. The initial agreement allows Tiffany to pay a termination fee of $575 million to walk away from the deal, but LVMH doesn’t have the same option. 

The New York-based firm claims that LVMH’s argument for halting the buyout has no foundation in French law and that LVMH hadn’t attempted to seek the necessary antitrust approval. LVMH said the necessary approvals were expected in October. 

Tiffany said LVMH had also breached its merger obligations by excluding the retailer from its discussions about the transaction with the French government. In a securities filing, Tiffany said that although LVMH had informed the jeweler it had received a letter from the French government, it had not seen an original draft of that letter.

On Thursday, the Paris-based conglomerate — whose holdings include Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Moet & Chandon, Bulgari and Sephora — issued a statement threatening legal action of its own. Among other things, LVMH criticized Tiffany for issuing dividends even as it was losing money.

A hard-fought deal

In what would have been — and could still be — the sector’s biggest-ever buyout deal, LVMH agreed to raise its offer several times, finally accepting $135 a share, which translated into an equity value of $16.2 billion.

It was an all-cash figure that was 22% higher than the New York-based company’s share price in November 2019. The deal was expected to be completed by this June, with a merger deadline of August.

The acquisition would consolidate the French company’s position as a big player in the watch and jewelry sectors. It would reportedly double the size and profitability of its portfolio in that category, which includes brands like Bulgari, Chaumet, Hublot and Tag Heuer, and accounts for roughly 9% of LVMH sales. 

Tiffany faces uncertain future

Tiffany had been trying to transform its brand, but is facing uncomfortable prospects beyond a costly legal battle with LVMH. In the six months ending on July 31, Tiffany had revenue of $1.3 billion compared with $2.05 billion in the same period of 2019. Tiffany operates 321 stores worldwide and reported $4.4 billion in revenue last year. 

LVMH said second quarter sales fell 38% on a like-for-like basis to €7.8 billion, or $9.2 billion, after a 17% decline in the first quarter. In 2019, LVMH declared €53.7 billion in revenue, a 15% increase over the previous year. The company is active in 70 countries with nearly 5,000 stores and 163,000 employees.

In the end a deal may eventually be completed, potentially at a discounted price as its value has been eroded by wider industry troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Global luxury sales are set to contract 25-45% in 2020, according to estimates by Boston Consulting Group.

In August in the US a number of major retailers filed for bankruptcy protection to try to save their businesses, including the 118-year-old department store chain JCPenney. For mergers and acquisitions the new world order has changed the rules, with a number of other deals called off or in doubt. The battle brewing between two of the biggest names in global luxury is one the biggest examples of this fracturing of deals agreed before the pandemic devastated retailers.