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POLITICS

Macron forced to accept interior minister’s resignation

France's Emmanuel Macron accepted the resignation of his interior minister, the Elysee Palace said Wednesday, in the latest blow to the president who had earlier refused to allow his loyal ally to quit.

Macron forced to accept interior minister's resignation
Photo: AFP

Gerard Collomb, who had been seen as one of Macron's most robust defenders, had indicated two weeks ago that he intended to step down next year, but he came under increasing pressure and made an initial attempt to resign Monday, only to be rebuffed by the president.

In an announcement early Wednesday the Elysee confirmed that Macron had accepted a fresh bid to quit from Collomb.

The president has “accepted the resignation of Gerard Collomb and asked the prime minister to act in his place until the announcement of a successor”, it 
said in a statement.

Collomb, a political heavyweight, had previously announced that he planned to run for his old job as mayor of the city of Lyon.

He said he would stay on as minister until European elections in May, but came under pressure to step down immediately as critics complained that his priorities had already turned to the campaign trail.

Late Monday, Macron's office said the president had vetoed his resignation attempt, insisting on “his confidence” in the 71-year-old.

But Collomb on Tuesday had said he still intended to quit, throwing the French political establishment into confusion.

“Gerard Collomb has resigned again. How long is this sketch going to last?” tweeted far-right leader Marine Le Pen Tuesday.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe cancelled a trip to South Africa planned for Thursday and Friday after being asked to step in, his office said.

Under the French constitution, the president names and removes ministers upon instructions from the premier.

Collomb has previously compared his relationship with Macron, 31 years his junior, to that of a father and son. He wept during Macron's inauguration in May 2017.

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ECONOMY

French economy minister ‘worried’ by British ‘disaster’

France's economy minister said Friday that he was worried by the financial turbulence in Britain, criticising Prime Minister Liz Truss's economic policies for causing a "disaster" of high borrowing rates for her country.

French economy minister 'worried' by British 'disaster'

“I’m not worried about the situation in the eurozone,” Bruno Le Maire told Europe 1 radio when asked about the risk of the crisis spreading. “On the other hand, I am worried about the British situation.”

“What does it show? It shows firstly that there are costs for financial and economic policies,” he said.

Truss’s “mini-budget” announced last Friday included major tax cuts that would need to be financed by extra borrowing, spooking investors who immediately questioned the credibility of the policies and Britain’s financial standing.

“When you take on major costs like that, with spectacular announcements, as some opposition parties want to do in France, it perturbs the markets. It perturbs financial balances,” Le Maire said.

“And it leads to a real disaster with interest rates which are 4.5 percent or even higher in Great Britain. We have interest rates which are reasonable, which are quite close to Germany’s because there is consistency in our economic and financial policymaking,” he said.

“The second thing is that leaving Europe comes with a considerable cost because Europe is a protection,” he added, referring to Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The pound fell to an all-time low against the dollar and the yield on 10-year British government bonds — which sets the cost of borrowing for the government — briefly rose to above 4.5 percent on Wednesday.

That led the Bank of England to intervene with a £65 billion emergency bond-buying programme to stabilise the market.

Le Maire has been under pressure this week to explain his own budget choices, with the government planning to borrow a record €270 billion next year and a run a deficit of 5.0 percent of GDP.

Some analysts see the deficit as likely to be higher because of Le Maire’s optimistic growth forecast for the economy and assumptions about savings from a controversial pensions reform that has not been passed by parliament.

French-British relations have been rocky for years, particularly under former prime minister Boris Johnson, with a host of issues souring ties from Brexit and fishing rights to migrants.

French ministers had been reluctant to comment on Truss since she came to power despite deep concerns about her Brexit policies and her statement while campaigning that she did not know if French President Emmanuel Macron was a “friend or foe.”

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