Leaders from Europe and elsewhere have largely rallied behind Spain's central government after the Catalan parliament voted in favour of splitting from Madrid and establishing an independent republic. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday announced the dissolution of the Catalan parliament and called for snap regional elections in a swift response to the Catalan MPs' declaration for independence. The standoff began when Catalans voted to secede from Spain in an October 1 referendum that had been declared illegal by Spanish authorities. The events in Barcelona and Madrid have gripped Spain, marking a major development in the country's worst political crisis in decades. The political uncertainty is also closely watched by the international community, and especially the European Union, as a potential Catalan independence would represent the greatest threat to the bloc's unity since Britain's decision to leave in July 2016.
Catalonia's parliament declared independence from Spain on Friday in defiance of the central government, in Madrid. The Spanish government responded by approving direct rule in the breakaway region. The vote by the upper house on Article 155 allows Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to rule Catalonia directly. Prime Minister Theresa May's office said Britain "does not and will not" recognise the Catalan regional parliament's declaration of independence, which "is based on a vote that was declared illegal by the Spanish courts." But the Scottish government, led by the pro-independence Scottish National Party, criticized Spain for refusing dialogue and said imposition of direct rule by Madrid "cannot be the solution."
The Catalan parliament on Friday voted to declare independence from Spain, prompting celebrations in Madrid and a strong response from the central government in Madrid. Within an hour, the Spanish Senate authorised Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government to impose direct rule over Catalonia. The crisis began when Catalans voted to secede from Spain in a banned referendum that was met with police violence on October 1. As the political crisis unfolds, we answer some of the most important questions about the future of Catalonia. Rajoy has fired Catalonia's regional government, including its leader, Carles Puigdemont.
BRUSSELS – Catalan leaders say they want to remain part of the European Union in the event of independence from Spain, but the path to continuing membership or rejoining the bloc is not clear. Brussels has stuck to its line that an independent Catalonia would automatically be out and have to reapply to join, but some experts say pragmatism may yet trump dogma. Would the EU recognize Catalonia? Last weekend's referendum produced a 90 percent vote for secession, but because it was held in defiance of Spain's Constitutional Court rulings that it was unlawful, from the EU's point of view it amounts to a deeply flawed mandate. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has made it clear Brussels will only respect a vote for independence if it is held in line with the Spanish Constitution.
Since the Catalan government's decision to stage a referendum on independence on October 1, there has been much comment on the rise of separatist movements across Europe. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned that the EU could not accommodate 95 member states. Alarm has been expressed about the contagion effect of Catalonia on other stateless nations striving to establish their own state. There is, in fact, no wave of separatism across Europe. In Belgium, the Flemish nationalist party is part of the national government but has not even insisted on a constitutional reform.