French lawmakers approved the controversial free-trade pact last week, despite fears it will bring unfair competition to French farmers, who face strict environmental rules. Mr Larcher, a veteran conservative, said on Twitter: “Every time lawmakers are attacked – physically or via attacks on their offices – it is our democracy that is being undermined. “I am issuing a warning to those who use such methods: they can lead to the worst.” Earlier on Tuesday, French MPs denounced the attacks in an open letter published on the website of Franceinfo radio, saying that the country was becoming “used to the intolerable”.
The 20 lawmakers from Mr Macron’s centrist La République en Marche (LREM) party and the allied MoDem party voiced outrage at having their constituency offices “walled in or smashed in” or their homes targeted because they allegedly “miss-voted” in favour of the trade deal.
“We will not let hate – both online and in our society – continue to flourish,” the MPs warned. “And some even gloat about [the attacks], believing that social media allows any kind of spinelessness, cowardice or insult.
“Violence and destruction will never replace dialogue and democracy,” they continued, before calling for a “more competitive France and a more social, environmentally friendly and united Europe”.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, a key Macron ally, said this week that he had ramped-up security around the homes and offices of all members of parliament after protesters tried to set fire to the offices of an MP during an anti-government rally in the southern city of Perpignan last weekend.
The attacks were sparked by the approval by the lower house of parliament last week of the trade deal between Brussels and Canada.
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, removes tariffs on nearly all goods and services between Canada and Europe and has already boosted EU exports to Canada by 15 percent, according to European officials.
Some 229 LREM lawmakers voted in favour of the treaty, nine against and 52 abstained. At Modem, 32 voted in favour, two against and six abstained. Left-wing and far-right MPs voted against.
Ahead of the vote, popular former environment minister Nicolas Hulot urged lawmakers to reject CETA, saying that the treaty weakened the bloc’s social and ecological regulations by importing products that would not be allowed in Europe.
French farmers opposed to the deal, for their part, say it undermines the country’s beef sector and brings unfair competition. EU farmers face stricter environmental rules than their Canadian counterparts.
The Macron government has sought to play down the impact of the accord on the farming sector and the environment, insisting that the pact includes guarantees and that Canadian imports will be obliged to meet strict EU rules.
Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume attempted to assuage concerns over a potential surge in Canadian beef imports later on Tuesday, telling the rolling news channel BFMTV that France would not import beef that “doesn’t meet EU and French standards”.
Until CETA, Canada’s use of hormones had effectively blocked Canadian beef exports to the EU for over two decades.
But the European Commission has stressed in the past that CETA would “not change the way the EU regulates food safety, including genetically modified products or the ban on hormone-treated beef.”