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CNN Today

Fuel Tax Protests Flood Across England

Aired September 12, 2000 - 1:10 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: In many parts of Europe, it is increasingly difficult for people to find gas for their cars. Truckers have been blocking refineries to protest high prices.

CNN's Nic Robertson reports that the protests, which started in France, have now taken root in Britain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Truckers took their dispute to the center of Edinburgh as the nation's fuel protest threatens to exhaust gas supplies at pumps across the country.

In England, most of the major fuel retailers report half their gas stations closed and panic buying is expected to force many more to run dry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are having to close. We've run out of unleaded, we have a little bit of super unleaded, and we are running out of diesel.

ROBERTSON: Despite difficulty locating gas supplies, motorists appear to be backing the protest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's great. I think it's time the British people stood up for themselves.

ROBERTSON: Britain's prime minister found himself at the center of the dispute during a tour of the country Monday. His refusal to back down to demands to cut gas tax has angered many.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tax is ludicrous. He talks about blaming OPEC and the tax is 7.50 pounds out of 10 pounds we spend. The man's a maniac.

ROBERTSON: Truckers and farmers manning blockades at refineries and depots have allowed a few fuel deliveries to emergency services to go ahead. They say, however, they have no intention of backing down.

BRYNIE WILLIAMS, PROTEST LEADER: By keeping this a very tidy, orderly, and I emphasize orderly, all it be illegal, demonstration, we haven't hurt anybody. We have no intention of hurting anybody, but we will finish this right to the end.

ROBERTSON: British ministers say it is now the responsibility of fuel retailers to ensure delivery to the pumps.

JOHN PRESCOTT, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: We are making it absolutely clear to the oil companies, and we have been briefed by the police in these matters that it is possible to distribute the oil reservices (ph).

ROBERTSON: Emergency powers enacted by the government will strengthen its ability to ensure deliverance of fuel to emergency services like schools and hospitals.

The harder task facing Blair and his ministers now, will be to end this crisis without losing public support. And given the popularity of the protest, that could prove very difficult, indeed.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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