this is bbc news. we'll have the headlines and all the main news stories for you at the top of the hour as newsday continues — straight after hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk from paris, i'm stephen sackur. france is recovering from the massive economic shock of the covid pandemic, but now it's exposed to the political uncertainty that comes with a looming presidential election. emmanuel macron hasn't officially declared that he will be a candidate, but there's little doubt
he is running again. my guest today is one of his most important backers, economy and finance minister bruno le maire. now, he has big ambitions to make france the greenest, the most dynamic economy in europe. that is a handy election slogan, but is it credible? minister bruno le maire, welcome to hardtalk. thank you. minister, you came to this economy and finance ministry with big plans for structural reform. has the covid crisis destroyed those ambitions? i would say that it has destroyed no ambition. we will stick to the path of reforms.
we have started the mandate of emmanuel macron with key reforms for the french economy, especially the reforms on taxation. we have reduced the level of taxation for french smes, for french people, by 50 billion euros. we have introduced reforms for the simplification of the life of the smes. then came this huge crisis, and i think this is the most important crisis since 1929 that we've lived in europe, in the western world, in china, in india, everywhere in the world. i think that we took the right decisions to face this crisis, all together, the uk and all the european countries took the right decisions to face the crisis, and now we have a very solid economic rebound and a very solid economic recovery. we should have a level of growth of 6.25% in 2021... sure, but if i may...
..and 4% in 2022. then we will come back to the reforms. ah, well, will you come back to the reforms? of course. let us look at the facts. you say "we have a strong rebound," but the truth is you had a contraction of more than 8% in 2020, so bouncing back by 6% still doesn't get you back to where you were. your budget deficit is soaring, your national debt is soaring. france's public finances are in a terrible mess. this is not the time... i think this is kind of a british presentation of the facts. i will give the french presentation of the facts. i think it is fairer than the one you are giving. of course, we had this contraction of 8% of the gdp in 2020, it was the same everywhere in europe, between 6% and 8%. but there is a fact which is the very quick and solid french economic recovery. we should have the same level of growth than we had before the crisis, no later
than the end of 2021. in germany, it will be at the beginning of 2022. so there is a very solid economic rebound because we have an economic recovery plan which is very efficient. we have already spent 70% of the french economic recovery plan. this explains the very solid economic rebound that we have. in germany, it will be at the beginning of 2022. but, nevertheless, i would like to insist on the necessity... it explains the debt — and the debt is serious. when you have a debt of 114% of your national income, you've got a problem. of course, but it was 116% in 2021. we are on the path of reducing the level of public debt, and i want to be very clear on that. we have to get rid of the french public debt, and we will take the right decisions with president macron to reduce the level of public debt. the first solution is to have growth, and we have growth. the second solution is to stick
to the path of reform. and i really want to confirm to you that the way we decided to introduce the reform on unemployment by october 1st, which was a very courageous and difficult decision, is a very clear evidence of our total determination with president macron to stick to the path of reform. that's one strand. 0ne strand of reform was unemployment reform. another key, maybe more important, reform was... pension reform, of course. yeah, but you've cancelled it, you've suspended the change. we have not cancelled the pension reform, we have postponed. are you going to resume your ambitious pension reform before the next presidential election in the spring of 2022? i really think it would be foolish to introduce pension reform if you don't have a very solid economic recovery, if you don't have the economic crisis being behind the french situation and behind
the european situation. i think that the economic crisis has, of course, changed the course of the mandate of emmanuel macron. it has not undermined our common determination to introduce the right reforms that will improve the french competitiveness. once again, you have to come back to the first days of the mandate of emmanuel macron. we introduced the necessary reforms. then came the crisis. we faced a crisis. we are coming back to normal, and in a normal situation there is a need for structural reforms. unemployment, this is already down. pension reform, it will be introduced as soon as possible when the conditions will be met, which means having a strong economic recovery and being able to overcome the concerns and the fears of the french population,
but we have a very clear economic line. i put it to you that, as an outsider looking into france, it looks like something fundamental has changed. the economic crisis, plus the fact that the election is coming very soon appears to have changed macron�*s mind, maybe yours, too. here's one symbol for you. a couple of years ago, when we last talked, we were discussing the french government's intention to impose an eco fuel tax on french drivers to ensure that france followed its decarbonisation commitments. what i find now in france, that you're giving away cash to drivers, you're giving those who earn less than 2,000 euros a month, 100 euro hand—outs to allow them to buy more fuel. that's a symbol of what has changed. the election�*s coming, you need votes and you need to keep the gilets jaunes off the streets.
of course we want to keep the gilets jaunes off the street. and, of course, we are drawing the lessons from the political crises that we lived in 2018 and 2019. and i think it's politics. in politics, you have to take into account... politics, not principle. ..the reality, but principles... politics, not principles. principles, because we have decided to introduce a compensation for some people which are facing difficulties in their daily life. but we refused the solution that you just mentioned, which would be to reduce the level of taxation on fossil energies. it would have been a solution of facility. it was exactly the solution that was proposed by all the oppositions. they were asking, "well, you have to reduce the level of taxation."
we refused this solution just because it would have been a total contradiction with our policy for the fight against climate change. and i personally refused to introduce any kind of reduction of taxation on fossil fuels, because you cannot explain that you want to be successful in the fight against climate change, and on the other hand reduce the level of taxation on fossil fuels. all right, but... it would have been a total contradiction to refuse this solution... it's a heck of a change. ..and we introduced a compensation for the people which have the most important difficulties in facing the increase of energy prices. when you said the other day, "i really think that a new yellow vest, gilets jaunes movement is a possibility everywhere within europe." you clearly feel that people here in france could be taking to the streets again because of the soaring prices of energy or fuel, and that would be a political crisis for you and your boss, emmanuel macron. and you can't afford that. you're right.
that's a broader issue than a french issue. that's a european issue, that's a british issue. who will pay for the fight against climate change, who will pay for the climate transition? i really think that the lowest wages will never pay for the climate transition, and we have to take into account this reality. we have to put on the table hundreds of billions of euros to finance renewable energies, to finance nuclear energies, maybe new nuclear plants. and on the other hand, there is a need to find the funding. and if you explain to the poorest people in your country, in the uk, or in france or in germany or in italy, that the poorest people will pay for the fight against climate change and will pay the climate transition, there will be new yellow vest movements everywhere in europe, and that's exactly what we want to avoid. in the words of the boss of greenpeace here in france,
jean—francois julliard, what you've just said represents, quote, "a festival of false solutions and wishful thinking." the idea that you can invest billions in hydrogen, in nuclear in all sorts of hopes for the future of technology, while avoiding taxing carbon in a realistic way right now is, according to many environmentalists, simply wishful thinking. but they are right. so why are you doing it? we need to tax co2 emissions, and that's why we are the only majority which refused to reduce the level of taxation on fossil fuels and once again, all the opposition in france proposed to reduce the level of taxation on fossil fuels. we are really, i think, consistent with our key political line, which is to improve the competitiveness
of the french economy while reducing the level of co2 emissions. but i share the point of view you just expressed. we will need on the coming years to increase the level of taxation on co2 emissions. and that's why also we will need to introduce a carbon border adjustment mechanism, because i cannot explain to the french people that they will have to pay forfossilfuels. i cannot explain to the french industries that they will have to pay to reduce the level of co2 emissions while importing steel or cement produced in turkey, in india, in china, which are emitting a lot of c02. we need to introduce a carbon border adjustment mechanism to face this fight against climate change and to be successful in the reduction of emissions. with respect, your problems aren't just with china
and india, they're also with other fellow member states of the european union, including hungary. viktor 0rban has said that the eu's emissions trading scheme, the carbon tax scheme, the carbon pricing scheme is creating the soaring energy prices for european consumers. he says it is totally unacceptable. the polish government is determined to keep mining coal. you know that the problems you've got are in europe, notjust with china and india. but what do they want? and what do we want, collectively? do we want to be successful in the fight against climate change or not? do we want to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 or not? that's the question. if they don't want to reach that agreement and if they don't want to reach that common political and social goal, well, they have to be clear about that. we are, with emmanuel macron, very clear on our political determination to reach carbon neutrality no later than 2050. just one single fact, when we are looking at the emission of c02, it is 60g per kilowatt hour
in france because we are relying on nuclear energy. it is more than 400g per c02 in germany. which country is the most efficient? you say, you know, we've laid out our plan to get to net zero and we are sticking to it. your problem and your embarrassment is that the french courts havejudged in recent months that you're not sticking to it. they've given your government only another 12 months to improve its record and to actually start meeting its own commitments to carbon emissions reductions, because the courts say that, right now, you're failing to live up to your own promises. you know, i would like the french court to have a look at what is happening abroad, because i would think... but that's not the point, minister. every country gets judged on its own promise. yes, but... macron made these promises, they're easy to make, but he's not keeping them. but we are keeping our promises.
well, look at the courtjudgment. if you look at the courtjudgment... i'm looking at the court judgment, but i'm also looking at what the researchers, what the scientists are explaining to me — and they are explaining to me that we are doing well, that we need to invest more in renewable energies and in nuclear energies, and that's exactly what we want to do. and once again, please, please just broaden the scope. just have a look at what is happening everywhere in the world. france is not the issue. france is not posing any kind of problem in the emission of c02. we are reducing our co2 emissions and we want to do more and we want to do better. but the same year, the same month, because we are facing an energy crisis, coal is back. coal is back in india, coal is back in china.
and that's not good news for the fight against climate change. let me change tack a little bit. you are minister of economy and finance, one of the biggest deals that was keeping one sector of french industry very happy was the deal to build submarines for australia. that deal has just fallen apart. it has collapsed because the australians have decided that, because of cost overruns and repeated delays, as well as a shift in their technological ambitions, they're going to go with a us/uk submarine fleet. how much of a national embarrassment was that for france? i think it is an australian embarrassment. i think it is a british embarrassment. i think it is an american embarrassment. it's not a french embarrassment. but you are the country that is losing the business... you are speaking about delays,
there was no delay. we were sticking, as usual, to our commitments. we were sticking to our promises. the australian government has taken a decision which is not a fair decision, which is not the kind of decision we should expect from allies, but that's a fact. we have very good submarines. we have a french army which is one of the best in the world, and i really think that we should rely on our submarines. australia has taken another decision. well, that's the past. but i really think it was not a fair decision. when the foreign minister here in paris called it a "stab in the back", prime minister borisjohnson, in the uk, responded by sort of mocking france, saying "prenez un grip,
donnez—moi un break". he was laughing at france. and ijust wonder, given that the relationship with the uk right now, post—brexit, looks very difficult, some say toxic, how you responded to those words from boris johnson? please raise the stake. raise the stake. raise the stake, we are facing huge challenges. the fight against climate change. illegal migrations. the rise of china. what is the key concern for all of us? what should be the key concern for the western countries? is it reopen old quarrels between the uk and france? well, it seems so... is it? with respect, it does seem so, if one looks at the northern ireland protocol, if one looks at fishing disputes in the english channel... but if some of the british politicians want to reopen quarrels between france and the uk, well, that's a willingness.
i'm working very well with the chancellor of the exchequer, with rishi sunak. we are doing a good job together. we have been successful in putting in place a new international taxation system. it is a great french/british victory and rishi was at the head of the g7 when he decided to support the french idea to have this international taxation being put in place, both minimum taxation and digital taxation. i have been personally fighting for that for more than four years. i know. and i am very grateful to rishi. but, as you well know, minister, rishi sunak does not head the british government, borisjohnson does. he sets the tone of the relationship. but i am not working with borisjohnson, i'm working with rishi sunak, and i'm working very well. and this is the clear evidence that, when the uk and france are working together on the fight against climate change, with the cop26,
on the international taxation, on many issues, we are successful. the outside world also looks at france and sees political uncertainty looming. you have a presidential election and you have a president whose approval rating stands at roughly 40% and you've now got two significant voices on the far right who are demanding that france change political direction and, in particular, that france addresses what those far—right candidates, marine le pen and eric zemmour, call a fundamental crisis facing france with immigration. are you confident that macron can face down this challenge and win re—election? i am confident. and i'm totally this in mind. so, i will play my part, my full part, to help emmanuel macron be re—elected next year. because my strongest belief
is that france needs stability. we are on the right way. we have a strong economic recovery. we are investing in new technologies. we have just decided on a investment plan of 30 billion euros to be independent on key technologies — semiconductors, green hydrogen, artificial intelligence, quantum calculation. we have to stick to that path. so, i will do my best efforts to have emmanuel macron being re—elected next year. but i'm fully aware that there are very important and deeply—rooted fears in the french society. fears towards globalisation, fears towards illegal migration, and we have to address these issues. and to quote one of... but you know, marine le pen and eric zemmour are only symptoms. they are playing with the french fears, they are not giving any kind of concrete
response to those concerns. and one of the calmest voices in french politics, michel barnier, who has his own presidential ambitions, he said just the other day, out of control immigration is weakening france's sense of identity. do you share that view? but we have to fight against illegal migration... do you share that view that immigration — out of control, says mr barnier — is weakening france's sense of identity? everybody could say the same, that we are all facing these very important waves of migrations. these very important waves of illegal migrations, in spain, in italy, in france, in many european countries. and we have to be very tough. we have to address this issue. we have to take very strong decisions and we have already taken very strong decisions with emmanuel macron.
but this is only part of the issue. this is only a partial view of the situation. the current situation is that all european countries, especially france, because we are one of the oldest countries in the world, we have questions about our own identity. what do we want, what kind of country are we? what kind of role could we play in the future on the international stage? and we have, during the next presidential election, to address those issues, which means reinforcing the french economy, fighting against illegal migration, addressing the question of public finances to come back to sound public finances, being very strong on the question of the state authority. these are the responses we want to give with emmanuel macron to those key concerns expressed by the french population. i'm fully aware that we are one
of the european countries where the extremist parties are the strongest. when you have between 30—a0% in the polls for eric zemmour or marine le pen, i think that it sounds like an alarm for all of us. the stakes are very high. and that's why i will not spare my efforts to help emmanuel macron to be re—elected. and i think that one of the best way of supporting emmanuel macron is to have very strong and positive economic results. that's exactly what we have now. bruno le maire, we have to end, but i thank you very much for being on hardtalk. thank you so much.
hello. 24—hour rain totals have now surpassed 230mm in the wettest parts of the cumbrian hills, and the met office amber warning for rain continues across cumbria and southwest scotland into thursday. there is more rain to come and, as all that water feeds down through the rivers and streams, the risk of flooding and disruption increases from a weather front which is very much still around in the day ahead, pulses of energy running along itjust enhancing the rainfall. so, there will be more rain to come on a very wet day in cumbria, for a time more widely across southern, central and eastern scotland, from the eastern side of northern ireland before it eases here, and pushing into more of northwest england and wales, and southwest england as the day goes on. northern scotland, sunny spells and a chance for showers, brightening up in northern ireland. largely dry through central and eastern parts of england. these are your wind speed
averages — gusts are high, particularly with the rain band along irish sea coasts, gusting near 50 mph in places, and the higher temperatures will be those parts of across eastern england that break out into a few sunny spells. we could well see 18 celsius again. there will be further rain overnight thursday into friday, but the idea is it's starting to move its way further east on another very mild night. and on friday, that rain will reach into parts of eastern england that have stayed dry through much of the week. there'll be another spell of rain moving through scotland — but as it all begins to pull away eastwards, it will be much drier to end friday, and particularly in those areas that have seen so much rain so far this week. at the same time, temperatures are coming down a few degrees. we're not finished with the rain, though — low pressure still very much in charge for the weekend, and another band of wet weather will arrive friday night into saturday. now it does look as if it's moving a little bit quicker now, this, so it will bring
a spell of rain overnight into saturday, but clears away more readily on saturday, allowing a drier, brighter day after the rain with a few showers around. and again, notice our temperatures are edging downwards. it looks at this stage as if sunday will be the wetter day of the weekend. as low pressure feeds in yet more rain, some of this will be heavy as it moves its way northward. the wind starts to pick up again, as well, and even after the rain, there'll be some heavy showers around.
welcome to newsday, reporting live from singapore. i'm karishma vaswani. the headlines: police in new mexico say they believe a live bullet was fired in the fatal shooting on the set of alec baldwin's new movie. we believe that we have in our possession the firearm that was fired by mr baldwin. this is the firearm we believe discharged the bullet. but it's too early to say whether they'll bring any charges. we'll have the latest. also in the programme... in the uk, the government's promising a post—covid age of optimism as the 2021 budget is delivered. in a bbc exclusive — new details about the fall of afghanistan — claims by the former president, ashraf ghani, that he had