Emmanuel Macron pledges tax cuts in bid to quell yellow vest protests

Emmanuel Macron has pledged to reduce taxes for the middle class and warned of the threat of illegal immigration in a bid to end five months of yellow vest protests.

In a televised speech from the Elysee Palace, the French leader said he was committed to tackling the issues raised by the demonstrators – including high taxes, stagnant wages and unemployment.

He also unveiled measures to boost pensions, help single parents, ensure a more representative parliament and ease rules on referendums, which he hopes will take the edge of protests that have gone on for 23 consecutive weeks.

On immigration, the president said: “To be welcoming, you need to have a house. So we need borders, borders to be respected, we need rules.”

And in what might be viewed as another Brexit barb, he said of referendums: “I don’t believe in permanent referendums, because referendums don’t allow for difficult decisions at the time when they must be made.”

It remains to be seen whether his intervention will have the desired impact, with critics likely to dismiss his proposals as too little too late.

Mr Macron has already made some concessions, including scrapping tax rises for fuel and on retirees, and bringing in a monthly bonus to increase the minimum wage, but they have made little difference.

The protests, which started in November over the planned fuel tax hike, have continued.

Those involved see the centrist Mr Macron, a former investment banker, as leading a government that favours the rich, with many claiming that they cannot pay their bills due to high living costs.

He has repeatedly refused to reintroduce a wealth tax on France’s richest people.

Mr Macron – who also used his address to again stress the importance of a “strong” Europe – had planned to make some economic announcements last week, but they were postponed due to the Notre Dame fire.

Government officials will meet next week to map out a schedule to implement the new measures, which Mr Macron will hope might help further nudge up his approval ratings.

Polls showed his popularity hovered around low levels for more than a year, but it has increased recently as he traversed the country taking part in the national debate over the protests.

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