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French PM kicks off national debate with Yellow Vests

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Paris, 4 December 2018.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Paris, 4 December 2018. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has met members of the public in the central Limousin region, after the National Assembly approved a package of emergency tax cuts to quell France's Yellow Vest protests.


The prime minister's first trip outside the capital in nearly six weeks is seen an attempt to restore public trust in a government often seen as aloof and out of touch.

His first stop was at a local apple factory in Haute-Vienne, where he was met with a list of grievances from workers, sceptical about the government's latest tax cuts.

"The end of year bonus is all very well, but I'll lose my benefits," one worker told the prime minister.

Careful not to make any false promises, Philippe insisted "the number of households entitled to a bonus would increase considerably".

Residents in the small village of Saint-Yrieix, where the prime minister travelled next, were also sceptical, with many joined by Yellow Vest protesters.

"We won't get the 100 euros!" one woman shouted, "Because if we earn two euros above the minimum wage limit we won't be entitled." Both the woman and her husband are demanding "an extra one hundred euros to their salaries and for everyone."

Debate by random selection

Complaints like these will soon form the basis of a national debate that the government is preparing in early January to put an end to five weeks of Yellow Vest demonstrations.

Citizens will be picked at random Philippe told reporters: "The idea is that people who are not used to political life will have a chance to air their views."

President Macron promised earlier this month he would consult the country and try to find solutions to people's anger over the cost of living.

The national debate is due to start in mid January and last until March.

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