It was a discussion that promised to be heated from the outset, after the announcement at the end of March of a public deficit of 5.5% of GDP in 2023, far from the 4.9% planned, and the criticism against the government that this announcement generated. During the public finance orientation debate held at the National Assembly on Monday April 29, the Minister of the Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, however assured that he wanted to “reach out to all parliamentarians of the opposition who wish to restore public finances”.

“Come and participate in this restoration of our public finances and let us put aside once and for all the political quarrels, which are not in the interest of France,” he said to the opposition, who criticize the management of the latter by Emmanuel Macron and Mr. Le Maire for seven years. In front of around fifty deputies, the minister declared at the opening of the debate that he hoped that it would allow “to confront visions rather than postures”.

The groups Rassemblement national (RN) and La France insoumise (LFI) have for their part requested that a draft amending finance law be submitted to Parliament within “thirty days” for some, within “a month” for the others, failing which they will table a motion of censure to try to bring down the government. While the Minister of the Economy had publicly supported the idea of ​​a amending finance bill before the summer, Emmanuel Macron opposed this option.

For the minister, oppositions have “short memories”

I have “never seen so many parliamentarians concerned about the public debt and the balance of our finances, worried about the risk of downgrading our rating by the rating agencies and ultimately a little disappointed that the Fitch and Moody’s agencies have decided to maintain France’s rating” on Friday evening, launched Bruno Le Maire during the debate in the hemicycle. “No, the financing of our debt is not threatened, no the France of 2024 is not the Greece of 2010, let’s keep a sense of moderation and our composure,” added the minister.

He said he was “surprised by this cohort of parliamentarians who always demanded more money in the past and always demand more savings now”, “in a conversion as sudden as it is doubtful”. The minister notably brandished a large red initialer, announcing that ten others were placed on the government benches, containing in total “2,500 letters, all parties combined, demanding more public spending in all areas and almost accusing me of stinginess “.

Bruno Le Maire also denounced those who have “short memories”, and have forgotten “the difficult times” during the Covid-19 pandemic or the inflationary crisis, during which the State spent enormously to support the economy . Now, he continued, “we must be the majority that will bring the public deficit back below 3% of GDP in 2027.” According to him, the stability program which underpins this trajectory “must lead us to bring together all those who, beyond controversies, sincerely want to restore the nation’s public finances”.

“The ball is in the LR’s court” in the event of a motion of censorship

The oppositions, however, remained in their positions, trying to play the balance of power against a presidential camp without an absolute majority in the Assembly. “The National Rally group demands that a draft amending finance law be submitted to Parliament within thirty days, and that the budgetary discussion comes to an end, without 49.3. (…) If at the end of these thirty days the government continues to ignore Parliament, the RN group will then table a motion of censure,” warned far-right MP Jean-Philippe Tanguy.

This motion of censure would have little chance of being voted for by all opposition groups, as recognized by Mr. Tanguy, who castigated the “deleterious sectarianism” of other groups. Stressing that a motion tabled by the LIOT group (independents) or Les Républicains would be “more likely to pass and finally overthrow the government”, he called “in particular” on the latter to “finally take their responsibilities”. “If the LR group files a motion of censure, the RN group will support it,” he said.

Questioned after the debate, the president of the finance committee, Eric Coquerel (LFI), also told the press that “if in one month there is no amending finance bill, then we will file a motion of censure”. The LFI group reiterated that it was open to voting on an LR motion. “The ball is in the LR court. Are they an opposition party in the Assembly or not? “, asked the “rebellious” MP Marianne Maximi.

For now, Gabriel Attal has only faced one motion of censure, largely rejected, in February. Her predecessor Elisabeth Borne managed to overcome thirty-one.