Fuel duty – how France com­pares to the rest of EU

The Guardian Weekly - - Spotlight - By Jasper Jolly JASPER JOLLY IS A FI­NAN­CIAL RE­PORTER FOR THE GUARDIAN

De­spite a back­drop of ri­ots against high fuel levies in France, Euro­pean com­mis­sion data shows that taxes on all petrol prod­ucts have fallen in the last two years across the eu­ro­zone: from al­most 70% of the cost for con­sumers at the pump to 60.9% at the end of Novem­ber. In France, taxes on fuel ac­count for a smaller pro­por­tion of to­tal prices than they did at the start of Em­manuel Macron’s pres­i­dency.

The data shows the Nether­lands has the high­est tax on un­leaded petrol in the EU, at 68% of the cost at the pump, while Bul­garia is the low­est at 51%. France’s fuel taxes – 64% on un­leaded and 59% on diesel – are among the high­est in the EU, but com­pare evenly with those in the UK.

“It’s of­ten said taxes on diesel and petrol have never been higher than to­day,” said Wil­liam Todts, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Trans­port & En­vi­ron­ment, a non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion. “The re­al­ity is that, in real terms, fuel taxes are about as high now as they were 20 years ago.”

Rather than taxes, the in­crease in crude oil prices since the start of 2016 has been the main driver in ris­ing costs for driv­ers. The re­treat of crude prices from an Oc­to­ber peak is ex­pected to give re­lief to Macron. Here is a sum­mary of the po­lit­i­cal de­bate over fuel taxes in other EU coun­tries.

Ger­many

Car man­u­fac­tur­ers ac­count for a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of out­put from Europe’s largest econ­omy, so there is not much ap­petite for se­vere mea­sures against cars – de­spite the diesel emis­sions scan­dal that rocked Volk­swa­gen. Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel has tried to de­fend the car in­dus­try against diesel bans in var­i­ous cities.

Spain

Spain has launched an am­bi­tious plan to de­car­bonise its econ­omy, in­clud­ing a ban on all new petrol and diesel cars af­ter 2040. The coun­try’s car­mak­ers and unions are gear­ing up for a fight, say­ing that the in­dus­try is not ready to bear the costs of a move away from fos­sil fu­els to­wards elec­tric ve­hi­cles.

Italy

Un­leaded petrol prices are con­sid­er­ably higher in Italy than in the rest of the EU. But de­spite a pop­ulist gov­ern­ment and a strug­gling econ­omy, Ital­ians have shown lit­tle sign of join­ing their French coun­ter­parts in protest­ing on the spe­cific is­sue of fuel prices.

Ire­land

Ire­land’s driv­ers buy more diesel ve­hi­cles pro­por­tion­ally than any­one else in Europe, ac­cord­ing to 2017 in­dus­try fig­ures, so any move against the fuel may be po­lit­i­cally painful. The Ir­ish gov­ern­ment has said it is com­mit­ted to cli­mate change goals, but has hes­i­tated re­cently on in­creas­ing car­bon taxes.

UK

A freeze on fuel duty has be­come an an­nual tra­di­tion in bud­gets for the last nine years, to the cha­grin of en­vi­ron­men­tal groups. The West­min­ster gov­ern­ment has banned new petrol and diesel ve­hi­cle sales af­ter 2040.

Bel­gium

Bel­gian po­lice re­sorted to water can­non and tear­gas in Brussels last week as the gilets jaunes move­ment spilled across the border with France. The price of un­leaded in Bel­gium is lower than in most ma­jor economies in western Europe.

Fuel tax rises have been the cat­a­lyst for a range of pub­lic griev­ances DAN KITWOOD/GETTY

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