Brits told to fill up car tanks before crossing Channel over strikes

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British drivers crossing the Channel have been warned to fill their tanks in the UK amid shortages of fuel across the whole of France. The strikes have put pressure on President Emmanuel Macron’s government, as rising inflation has led to higher household bills in France, and French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne held a crisis meeting on Monday to deal with the shortage issues.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told French radio: “We must find an agreement in the coming hours. 

“Our compatriots must not be collateral victims.” 

It has led to UK holidaymakers being warned to get their fuel at home before arriving in France. 

Both Mr Le Maire and French government spokesman Olivier Veran added the government could intervene to end the blockades.

Mr Veran said the government could order the requisitioning of staff to end the petrol depot blockades, and that it could again dip into the country’s strategic reserves of fuel if needed.

More than 60 percent of France’s refining capacity has been taken offline by the strikes, driving diesel prices higher and prompting the country to increase imports of the fuel.

The industrial action, led by France’s CGT trade union, has mainly affected refineries and depots of French oil major TotalEnergies but also facilities of US giant Exxon Mobil in France.

At the latter, an end of the strike seems in sight as negotiations between management and unions have resumed, but the situation is still in a deadlock at TotalEnergies.

“There is only one way out and that is to put an end to the strike,” Mr Beaune said, adding the government will ask TotalEnergies to extend for several days its rebates scheme on fuel prices.

President Macron called for a quick end to the crisis.

Mr Macron said during a visit to the Mayenne in western France: “Negotiations are under way and on track…I hope that in the coming hours, the soonest, this can be resolved. Blocking is not a way to negotiate.” 

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A day after TotalEnergies offered to bring forward pay talks on condition that the union ends its two-week refineries strike, the CGT said that “this attempt is perceived as blackmail by the CGT and does not guarantee satisfaction of the demands expressed and therefore the return to work”.

Esso France, Exxon Mobil’s French business, said on Sunday it had put an improved offer for a 6.5 percent salary increase in 2023 and a €3,000 bonus on the table. That would mean an overall wage increase of 10.7 percent plus €4,000 in bonuses over the period from January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2023, it added.

Long tailbacks formed at fuel stations in the Paris region as drivers tried to fill up before more pumps run dry. The energy ministry said that almost a third of service stations nationwide faced shortages of at least one fuel product.

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Sugar producers received fuel from strategic reserves after they warned that a lack of diesel impacting the harvesting of sugar beet could lead to factory stoppages.

The strike has forced TotalEnergies’ 240,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Gonfreville refinery offline. Deliveries of refined products are also blocked at the 119,000-bpd Feyzin refinery, which is closed for unplanned maintenance but has fuel in storage, and the Cote d’Opal and La Mede fuel depots.

Two Exxon Mobil refineries have also been out of action since late September.

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