Evening Update Monday 20th March 2023

The French government has narrowly survived a vote of no-confidence following a fallout over its controversial pension reform. The vote, tabled by centrist MPs, had 278 MPs vote in favour, falling short of the 287 votes needed. If it had been successful, Emmanuel Macron would have had to name a new government, or call new elections. The vote was tabled after Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne used constitutional article 49:3 to push the bill through without a vote last week. Since then, thousands have taken to the streets of France in protest.

About a dozen petrol stations around the Alpes-Maritimes - and more than 60 in the Var - are suffering supply shortages today, following strikes at oil refineries in protest against the French government's planned pension reforms. The Paca region's two biggest oil refineries are at a standstill - and there were long queues outside several petrol stations in the Var today, where about 40 petrol stations are out of fuel and another 20 have limited stocks, with the area around Toulon worst affected. Meanwhile, the Vaucluse department has issued restrictions on fuel purchases, capped at 30 litres per person, to stop panic-buying. At this stage, the fuel supply situation nationwide remains stable, with only 6% of service stations nationally lacking one or more types of fuel. In the Alpes-Maritimes, nine service stations have limited stocks, including the Total on the Promenade des Anglais, and several petrol stations around Saint-Laurent-du-Var and Cagnes-sur-Mer. Only three petrol stations are totally out of fuel.

Meanwhile, there were more protests in Nice and Grasse on Monday lunchtime  against the use of Article 49.3 to push through the controversial pension reform without a full vote. According to police estimates, at the weekend, 1,500 people protested in Marseille on Saturday afternoon. About 300 people gathered on Nice Port on Sunday afternoon, near the offices of Les Republicains leader Eric Ciotti, which had been vandalised earlier on Sunday morning.

The French civil aviation authority has asked airlines to pre-emptively cancel 20% of their flights to and from Paris-Orly and Marseille airports for the next few days. It's due to ongoing industrial action by air traffic controllers over France's pension reforms. Thursday is likely to see a greater impact to flights, as that's the next nationwide pan-industry day of strike action. If you're due to fly to Paris any time this week, it's worth checking with your airline before you travel. We already know that the Lignes d'Azur network around Nice will be severely disrupted on Thursday. There will be no trams running at all, and no service on about 25 bus routes. You'll find the details on lignesdazur.com

Between 400 and 500 people demonstrated in Nice on Saturday afternoon against planned extension works at terminal 2 of Nice airport. The protestors caused some minor delays to traffic as they marched along the Promenade des Anglais. Some of the protestors dressed up in lab coats and masks and tied a ribbon between two palm trees reading: "Crime scene, do not enter". The march had been called by several dozen local campaign groups fighting for the environment. They've filed an appeal with an administrative court in Marseille against the planned airport extension, which they say is not necessary in the broader context of global climate change and drought. The area around Nice airport is on the edge of a Natura 2000 zone, and is home to more than 200 protected species of flora and fauna, including several protected birds. Nice airport has defended the extension of Terminal 2. It says it'll have no impact on the number of flights taking off and landing. The changes are purely designed to improve passengers' experience by offering them more space.

A driver was rushed to hospital on Friday afternoon after losing control of their car in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, flipping the vehicle over onto its roof. The accident happened in the town centre, just outside La Réserve, blocking the Basse Corniche in both directions. The driver was taken to Pasteur hospital in Nice with minor injuries. No one else was hurt.

Two men were taken to hospital in Nice in the early hours of Sunday morning with stab wounds after a fight outside a nightclub in the city centre. Paramedics were called at about 5.30 yesterday morning to a brawl on the corner of Rue Barla and Rue Georges-Ville. One man in his thirties was seriously injured, another had minor injuries.

About 100 people had to be evacuated from their homes in Toulon after several cars caught fire in the underground car park at their apartment block. Residents were alerted by the smell of thick black smoke coming from underneath the property. The whole building was evacuated as a precaution. 25 firefighters quickly attended the scene and managed to stop the fire spreading to other nearby parked vehicles. No one was injured and everyone was able to return home.

Meanwhile, a vape shop in the centre of Fréjus has been completely destroyed by fire. No one was hurt in the blaze, which was put out by 21 firefighters. The resident of the apartment above the shop, near Fréjus town hall, has had to be rehoused.

Primary schools around the Alpes-Maritimes are to introduce a "buddy" system to try to prevent cases of bullying. The "benevolent buddy" scheme was launched in secondary schools in 2016 and is now being extended to primary level. Their role is to be a trusted person to turn to, and to warn an adult if they see a classmate is being bullied. Several schools have signed up to the experiment and will launch an awareness campaign among pupils and parents. According to the French education ministry, one in 40 primary school pupils suffers some form of bullying or harassment, and this rises to one in 20 in secondary school. The Alpes-Maritimes also has an anti-bullying helpline for parents and students alike. It's 04 93 53 72 51.

The town of Tende is celebrating after making into the Michelin guide of 100 places in France that are worth making a detour to go and explore. Tende is the biggest municipality in the Alpes-Maritimes by surface area, stretching over 17,000 hectares, with 28 mountain lakes. It's one of only two places in the Alpes-Maritimes that make the Michelin top 100. The other is Biot.

And a couple from the Var couldn't believe their eyes when they won almost €1.5 million at a slot machine in La Ciotat casino. The pair, who run a local business near Hyères, were visiting the casino on Saturday night when they hit a jackpot of €1,454,815.58. They had to ask fellow gamblers to come over and confirm the figure on the machine before they could believe that they'd won.


The UK's central bank has said banks are "safe" after regulators agreed a rescue deal for Credit Suisse aimed at preventing fears over banks spreading. The bank was bought by rival UBS in a Swiss government-backed deal on Sunday after regulators worked frantically round the clock to secure a deal. It comes amid fears over the global financial system after two smaller US banks failed in recent weeks. Despite the swift action by regulators, stock markets in the UK and Asia fell.

Meanwhile, central banks have moved globally to keep credit flowing after an unsettled period in the US banking sector and the Credit Suisse merger. Six central banks, including the Bank of England, announced they would boost the flow of US dollars through the global financial system. On Sunday the struggling Credit Suisse was taken over by UBS in a Swiss government-backed deal. The Bank of England, Bank of Japan, Bank of Canada, the European Central Bank, US Federal Reserve and Swiss National Bank launched the co-ordinated action to "enhance the provision of liquidity". The announcement said it served as an "important backstop to ease strains in global funding markets" and to lessen the impact on the supply of credit to households and businesses. The arrangement was first adopted during the 2008 financial crisis and the Covid pandemic. It starts today and will continue until "at least through the end of April". Global banking stocks slumped following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, despite reassurances from President Joe Biden the US would do "whatever is needed" to protect the banking system.

Virgin Orbit has begun drawing up detailed contingency plans for its insolvency - days after halting its operations and furloughing its workforce. The commercial space satellite venture founded by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group is working with two restructuring firms, on fallback plans in the event that it cannot secure new funding. The decision to line up the advisers underlines the parlous nature of Virgin Orbit's finances, even as it continues talks with a small number of prospective investors about providing sufficient funding to restart its operations. Virgin Orbit is 75%-owned by Sir Richard's holding company, with its shares listed on the Nasdaq exchange in New York. Its value has further plummeted following the failure of its inaugural British mission in Cornwall in January.

French supermarkets Casino and Intermarché have been ordered to pay a fine of €4 million, and Monoprix half a million, after being found guilty of practices that “restrict competitiveness”. The Court of Appeal in Paris found the trio had demanded ”additional investment from certain suppliers without effective compensation, and under the threat of retaliation". This court said this situation caused “significant inequality in the balance of rights and obligations of each party”..


Tennis - Carlos Alcaraz breezed past Daniil Medvedev to win the Indian Wells title and return to world number one. Alcaraz, 19, needed only one hour 11 minutes to seal a 6-3 6-2 win that took him above Novak Djokovic at the top of the ATP rankings. It is the US Open champion's third career Masters 1,000 title. Djokovic was forced to withdraw from the tournament in California because he was unable to enter the United States because he is not vaccinated against Covid-19. He will also miss this week's Miami Open, where Alcaraz is defending champion. Alcaraz is only the second player after fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal to win at least three Masters 1,000 titles as a teenager.

Football - It's reportedly business as usual at Tottenham despite Antonio Conte's extraordinary rant in which he called his Spurs players "selfish". The squad will report back to the training ground on Tuesday as normal following two pre-planned days off. But Tottenham players expect it is only a matter of time before Antonio Conte leaves the club.  He is out of contract in the summer and many players now think they will be working under a new head coach next season. The players say they are willing to accept responsibility for poor performances and results but there is a sense Conte came close to crossing a line by calling them selfish and questioning their commitment to the club on Saturday after their 3-3 draw at Southampton. Tottenham do not play again for a fortnight and that has given chairman Daniel Levy a short period of time to decide whether he should take any action against Conte. Conte has clarified to the Spurs board that his furious outburst was aimed purely at the players and not the owner or the chairman.

In local football, OGC Nice achieved a 1-1 draw at home against Lorient at the Allianz Riviera, while AS Monaco return from a trip to Corsica with a 2-0 win to their name against Ajaccio.


Ireland are hoping their sensational rugby Six Nations win at the weekend is only just the beginning. Johnny Sexton said leading Ireland to a first Six Nations Grand Slam in Dublin was 'better than the best day of his life', while England head coach Steve Borthwick queried Freddie Steward's red card during this weekend's match. Ireland clinched their Six Nations grand slam 24-16 against a 14-man England. Previous Ireland Grand Slam wins in 1948 (Belfast), 2009 (Cardiff) and 2018 (Twickenham) had each been won away from home. Ireland head coach Andy Farrell says he is delighted to clinch the Grand Slam on home turf. As Ireland’s players, coaches and supporters celebrated a famous achievement, they're already raising their eyes to the horizon and asking if something brighter might yet materialise. Only Clive Woodward’s England have previously stood where Ireland do now: the official grandmasters of Europe and the world's No 1 team just six months away from a World Cup. The Rugby World Cup, in France, kicks off on 8th September.

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