French politicians receive death threats over EU-Canada trade deal

The country’s interior minister ordered police to provide extra security to lawmakers after they complained their offices had been “walled or smashed up” by angry farmers. “My car was smashed up. I’ve received death threats. This has to stop,” Mrs O’Petit told France’s RTL radio. French farmers angered by the free-trade agreement with Canada have protested in recent weeks by damaging at least 20 offices belonging to lawmakers from Mr Macron’s centrist La République en Marche (LREM) party.

“Some 144 lawmakers have had their offices walled or smashed up, received death threats or been verbally abused” because they supposedly misvoted in favour of the EU-Canada trade pact, Mrs O’Petit continued, adding that she “sometimes felt in danger”.

“We will never yield to such threats,” she warned.

Christophe Castaner, the interior minister, has ordered police to boost security around the offices and homes of all parliamentarians in response to the attacks.

Some MPs have even set up hotlines to police headquarters after receiving death threats.

Farmers launched fresh attacks on politicians’ offices overnight in Poitiers, Loudun and Chatellerault in western France, a regional branch of Mr Macron’s LREM party said on Thursday.

“I am appalled by the wall and the graffiti that was put up last night in front of my office by the farmers,” Sacha Houlié, who represents the LREM party in Poitiers, said on Twitter.

The office attacks are “acts of violence, symbolic violence maybe, but acts of violence nevertheless," Mr Houlié later told Europe 1 radio.

A local farmers’ association has claimed responsibility for the latest protest, which entailed blocking access to the offices with impromptu brick walls on which they sprayed slogans against the EU-Canada treaty, known as CETA.

Anti-government protests picked up after parliament overwhelmingly approved the trade deal last month.

The deal removes tariffs on nearly all goods and services between Canada and Europe.

Critics of the deal say it will undermine the bloc’s social and environmental regulations by allowing imports of products made under conditions that would not be allowed in Europe.

They also argue it will bring unfair competition to French farmers as Canada’s environmental legislation is less strict than in France.

The Macron government has brushed off fears about the impact of the deal on the farming sector and the environment, saying the agreement includes safeguards and that Canadian imports have to meet strict EU rules.

As CETA continues to draw intense criticism, there is also anger among French farmers over the potential damage of a provisional trade pact struck in June by Brussels and the Mercosur bloc of South American countries, which includes major agricultural exporters Brazil and Argentina.

The current unrest comes on top of the anti-government yellow vest rebellion that has rocked France for months.

The movement started in mid-November over planned fuel tax hikes, but rapidly morphed into a sometimes violent revolt against a government seen by many as arrogant and out of touch.

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