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Fuel protesters threaten to block oil refineries next after day of disruption on the roads

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 04/07/2022 Hayley Dixon, Charles Hymas
A rolling roadblock on the M5 at Bristol, as drivers protest against soaring fuel prices - Mr Standfast/Alamy Live News © Mr Standfast/Alamy Live News A rolling roadblock on the M5 at Bristol, as drivers protest against soaring fuel prices - Mr Standfast/Alamy Live News

Fuel duty demonstrators have threatened to blockade oil refineries after targeting motorways with rolling roadblocks, as Priti Patel urged police to shut down the protests.

Police arrested 12 people for driving too slowly on the M4 on Monday, saying the demonstration was putting emergency services "at risk".

Other forces handed out warnings to drivers who were gridlocking motorways and major A-routes with a series of rolling go-slow roadblocks. West Mercia police said they were investigating the action of some drivers on the M54.

Protest organisers - who are demanding a fairer price for petrol, including a cut on fuel duty from the Government - warned that this is just the beginning of the action.

Many raised the prospect of a repeat of the oil refinery blockades that brought Britain to a standstill in 2000, amid a standoff between HGV drivers and farmers and Tony Blair about the cost of fuel.

The latest figures from Experian show the average price of petrol reached a new high of 191.5p per litre on Sunday, while the average price of diesel was 199.0p per litre.

The protests across the country were organised separately over social media on groups including Fuel Price Stand Against Tax and Stand up to Fuel Prices' protest.

The latter compared themselves to France’s gilets jaunes protesters, saying that across the Channel the protests began when petrol reached £1.42. 

“We’ve let it get near £2, which it is sure to reach very soon if we carry on letting it,” the group said. “Fuel costs in turn are driving our food, gas, electricity and more up! So let’s do something about it.”

The Prince of Wales Bridge was worst hit by the action. It was closed for over an hour after protests started simultaneously in both directions on the M4 across the River Severn.

Police escorted the two blockades but prevented them from completing the return journey by halting the convoys and arresting people for driving below the agreed 30mph speed for a prolonged period.

Meanwhile, Devon and Cornwall Police said a motorist in his 50s was arrested on the A38 for a public order offence after allegedly driving repeatedly at a "dangerously low speed".

National Highways said that most of the roads were clear by lunchtime.

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Howard Cox, of Fair Fuel UK, said that he was “supporting” the aims of the protesters, but had not been involved with the organisation.

Instead, the protests were “driven by social media” and organised by a “disparate set of people across the country” who were mostly small business owners, he said.

Mr Cox added: “People are at the end of their tether. This is hard-working, decent people who are fed up to their back teeth with the high cost of pump prices.

“Across Europe, diesel is on average 25p cheaper and petrol 20p cheaper than in the UK.

“Germany cut fuel tax by 26p, Spain by 20p and Ireland by 17p. Why can’t the Government do the same? They did 5p in the Spring Statement and it didn’t even touch the sides.”

“If the Government doesn't cut fuel duty in the next week or so, then the protests will get a lot worse.”

Chris Elliott, who organised a protest at a petrol forecourt in Shepton Mallet, said: “Unless things change, I don’t think that this will be the end of it, this will be the summer of discontent.

“The people who attended our protest were all asking when we were going to do the next one.”

Matt Hill, who ended up doing a solo protest down the M40 escorted by police after no one else showed up to his event, said: “I would be happy to do it again. I think that the next step is back to the oil refineries like they did in 2000. That impacts everything and that is the way to get the Government to react.”

Andy Carloman, who runs a building firm and organised the action on the M54, said that they were not trying to “endanger lives or put anybody out”, but people could no longer cope with rising costs.

“If this doesn’t end and the Government doesn't do anything, then this will get worse,” he warned. “There are people saying that we need to block oil refineries, now it has started it will only get worse.”

The Government said that, while it understands that people are struggling with rising prices and have a right to protest, “people's day to day lives should not be disrupted”. It warned that traffic delays "will only add to fuel use".

A Home Office source said: “Through our Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, we have given the police a wealth of powers to deal with disruptive and damaging protests, including imprisonment and unlimited fines for those blocking a highway - actions which inflict further pain on those affected by rising prices.

"The Home Secretary would encourage and support the police to make use of all the powers available to them.”

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