Presidential election candidates state their case for racing industry
A week on from the 5,000 strong march in Paris to protect racing's delicate financial equilibrium, the industry once again flexed its collective political muscle on Wednesday when staging a special hustings event ahead of the presidential election.
The morning after a marathon four-hour televised debate, both the Republican candidate Francois Fillon and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan of the France Debout party made personal appearances at the meeting, while surrogates also took to the stage for the two candidates currently topping opinion polls, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.
Among the topics addressed by each speaker was the level of VAT attached to racing and breeding, which was raised from single figures to 20 per cent following a 2012 ruling by the European Court of Justice.
Edouard Durand committed a future Front National government led by Marine Le Pen to reversing the decision and adopting a 5.5 per cent rate.
Fillon's candidacy has been dogged by investigations into alleged improper payments to his wife and children but the former Prime Minister, who has also served in the past as president of Sable-sur-Sarthe racecourse and has close ties to the sport, was given an enthusiastic reception by sections of an audience that numbered more than 500 people.
Fillon said: "I am in favour of a reduced rate of VAT and will work to convince the European Commission to accept it. We must fight to establish the principle of subsidiarity."
A former finance minister under President Francois Hollande, Macron's theme of liberalising the French economy was echoed in the words of his spokesman Jean Arthuis.
"Emmanuel Macron will give freedom to all those who run a business and will simplify labour laws," said Arthuis, who added that the candidate supported a reduction of the VAT applicable on racing and breeding to just around 10 per cent.