London Daily

Focus on the big picture.

King Charles's France visit postponed after pension protests

King Charles's France visit postponed after pension protests

King Charles III's state visit to France has been postponed after a request by President Emmanuel Macron, Downing Street says.

The president said "we would not be sensible and would lack common sense" to go ahead after unions called a day of pension protests during the visit.

The trip to Paris and Bordeaux had been due to begin on Sunday.

But both cities were caught up in violence on Thursday, some of the worst since demonstrations began in January.

Buckingham Palace said the decision to postpone the three-day visit by Charles III and Camilla, the Queen Consort, was due to the "situation in France".

"Their Majesties greatly look forward to the opportunity to visit France as soon as dates can be found," the statement added.

President Macron said that from the moment on Thursday night when unions announced a 10th national day of action for Tuesday, two days into the state visit, he felt it would be inappropriate for the King and Camilla to travel.

"As we have considerable friendship, respect and esteem for His Majesty and the Queen Consort and the British people, I took the initiative this morning to call [the King] and explain the situation... Common sense and friendship led us to suggest a postponement."

The UK government added the decision had been "taken with the consent of all parties". Mr Macron said France had proposed moving the trip to early summer, "when things calm down again".

The King and Queen Consort, pictured in Bolton in January


The decision is a significant loss of face for France and for President Macron. This was supposed to have been a showcase for France, introducing the new monarch to the best of French life and cementing a newly awakened friendship.

The president's opponents on the left and right reacted fast.

Eric Ciotti of the Republicans said the cancellation brought "shame on our country" while Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the far left was delighted the "meeting of kings at Versailles" had been broken up, adding that "the English" knew that France's interior minister was "pathetic on security".

The protests had made the trip impossible. Several French cities saw violence on the sidelines of Thursday's largely peaceful demonstrations that attracted more than a million people.

The entrance to the town hall in Bordeaux was set alight. In Paris, tear gas was fired and Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said 903 fires were lit, in a city where refuse has been left uncollected since 6 March.

Hundreds of police officers were hurt across France, but protesters were injured by stun grenades and the Council of Europe said there was no justification for "excessive force" by authorities.

For much of Friday morning, French officials had sought to reassure the public that the state visit, from 26 to 29 March, would go ahead and that security was in place. Some UK journalists had already travelled to Paris to cover the event.

This was a hugely important trip for the King: a first state visit, and to one of the UK's closest and oldest allies. The King and Camilla were due to ride along the Champs-Elysées in the heart of Paris and have a banquet at Versailles with President Macron.

Camilla was expected to open an art exhibition at one of the main Paris attractions, the Musée d'Orsay. They were then expected to head to Bordeaux.

But every step of the visit was at risk of being targeted by protests and eventually it was cancelled. Even the people who roll out the red carpets were planning strike action.

Interior Minister Mr Darmanin said earlier on Friday that there were "no known threats" to the King. Bordeaux Mayor Pierre Hurmic said the trip to his city had been adapted so it "can go ahead under the best security, so as not to expose the King to the slightest difficulty".

However, facing the prospect of showing the King through rubbish and graffiti-strewn streets, with every public appearance smothered in security, and every movement threatened by strikes, the French president made the obvious choice.

It may have been a joint decision with the UK government, but he was the one under pressure.

The trip to Bordeaux, originally intended to focus on organic vineyards, went up in flames. The town hall, its front door set alight on Thursday, was due to be part of the visit.

Domestically, the image would have played badly for the president. Dining with a king in Versailles would have been jarringly inappropriate and could have played rather too directly into the hands of his detractors.

A TV interview that President Macron gave on the eve of Thursday's national action appeared to galvanise protesters, when he described the government's reforms as an economic necessity, saying he was prepared to accept the resulting unpopularity.

His government decided on Monday to force through the reforms, which raise the pension age from 62 to 64 and extend contributions by workers to 43 years.

As the president and prime minister realised they would struggle to pass the law in the National Assembly, they resorted to a constitutional power to bypass a vote.

"I listened to Macron yesterday and it was as if someone was spitting in our face," said Adèle, a 19-year-old law student in Nanterre. "For this pension reform, there is another way and if he doesn't do that, it's because he's not listening to the people. There's a clear lack of democracy," she told the BBC.

While the postponement will be highly embarrassing for President Macron, it will also be disappointing for King Charles.

State visits are made on the advice of the government. All the background briefing had been that this was an important diplomatic statement about rebuilding relationships with European neighbours.

The King and Camilla were due to travel from France to Germany on Wednesday. Charles's first state visit will instead begin in Berlin.


Newsletter

Related Articles

London Daily
0:00
0:00
Close
News roundup
Good day, everyone! We've got some gripping stories for you today, spanning from the Middle East to Europe, and even a touch of Hollywood.
Britain’s Refugee Visa Rules Stranding Children in War Zones
UK Elections Predict ‘Electoral Extinction’ for PM Sunak’s Conservative Party
Italian Activist Ilaria Salis Returns Home After Election to European Parliament
Good morning!
England Faces Serbia in Euro Opener with Defensive Concerns
Dermatologist Warns Against Sunbed Usage
Fake Pro-Reform UK Social Accounts and Their Influence on Elections
UK Man Jailed for Non-Consensual Condom Removal
Reform UK Surpasses Conservatives in Historic Poll
US, Britain, Canada Accuse Russia of Interference in Moldova’s Election
Taylor Swift Fans Create Seismic Activity in Edinburgh
Sunak Aide Under Investigation for Election Bet
Labour Leader Starmer Focuses on Wealth Creation for Upcoming UK Elections
G7 to Use Frozen Russian Assets for $50 Billion Ukraine Aid
Anti-Israel Irish MEP Clare Daly LOST her seat in the EU Election
Johnson & Johnson Settles Talc Safety Claims for $700 Million
EU Urged to Welcome Skilled Russians to Weaken Putin
EU Elections Overview: Far-Right Gains and Major Political Shifts
Israel Rescues Four Hostages from Gaza
Emmanuel Macron Calls for Snap Election
Jordan Bardella: Young Far-Right Leader Poised for Future Political Influence in France
World's Oldest Privately Owned Book Auctioned for $3.8 Million
Animal Rights Activists Deface King Charles' Portrait in Protest
Dutch Military Intel Uncovers Extensive Chinese Cyber Espionage
Turkish Student Arrested for Using AI to Cheat in University Exam
Rise in Dengue and Other Mosquito-Borne Diseases in Europe Due to Climate Change
EU Elections Overview: Far-Right Gains and Major Political Shifts
Far-Right National Rally Dominates France's EU Vote
Macron Calls Snap Legislative Elections After Far-Right Victory
Far-Right Gains Significantly in EU Election
UK Job Market Shows Signs of Recovery
Orban’s Fidesz Party Wins Majority in Hungary’s EU Elections as New Challenger Emerges
Meloni's Far-Right Party Wins European Elections in Italy
Key Insights from the European Union Elections
European Union Elections and Rise of Far-Right Parties
England Loses Over 260,000 Social Rent Homes in a Decade
Campaigners Urge Government to Block Shein's FTSE Listing
First NHS AI-Run Physiotherapy Clinic Launches This Year
British TV Presenter Michael Mosley Found Dead on Greek Island
Ukrainian Forces Claims First Strike on Russia's Su-57 Fighter Jet
Macron Dissolves Parliament and Calls Snap Elections
Russia Adds Yulia Tymoshenko to Wanted List
UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron Tricked by Hoax Caller Posing as Former Ukrainian President
Kate Middleton's Absence from Colonel's Review Due to Chemotherapy
UK Foreign Secretary Deceived by Prank Video Call
Sunak Criticised Over D-Day Exit in BBC Debate
Rishi Sunak Apologizes for Leaving D-Day Commemoration Early
UK Woman Sentenced After Causing Fatal Crash While Sending Selfies
×