France's Le Maire Says Yellow Vests Protests Undermine Economy

(Bloomberg) -- French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said so-called Yellow Vests protests must end as they are undermining the economy, and that he’ll present a plan within a few days to help businesses that have been hurt by the repeated weekend demonstrations.

Le Maire, in an interview with French newspaper Midi Libre published Sunday, said his proposal will include delays to tax payments and support from the treasury. This weekend marked the 14th consecutive week of protests, though the number of participants dwindled by about 10,000 from last weekend to 41,500, according to Interior Ministry figures cited by Agence France-Presse.

The movement, which started out as a protest against higher gasoline taxes, has led to regular clashes with police, resulting in 1,800 criminal convictions, with another 1,400 people awaiting sentencing, the government said last week.

France will cut taxes in response to the protests once decisions have been made on corresponding spending cuts, Le Maire said. It’s up to French people to define what is important and what concessions they’re willing make during debates organized by the government, he said.

While polls show roughly half of French people still support the Yellow Vests, President Emmanuel Macron’s idea of opening a national debate on taxes and democracy in response has helped lift his approval rating. An Ifop poll published earlier by Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper showed it has inched 1 point higher from last month, to 28 percent.

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