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."
Spain is set to put in place measures to take direct control of Catalonia in response to the region's declaration of independence last week. On Friday, Madrid stripped Catalonia of its autonomy and removed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont from office. The temporary move will see as many as 150 of the region's ministers replaced. Some have vowed to continue to work. Mr Puigdemont and other Catalan officials may face criminal charges, a move likely to lead to huge protests.
The Spanish government has stripped the head of Catalonia's regional police of his powers, hours after direct rule was imposed on the region. This is the first specific measure taken since the Catalan parliament voted to declare independence. PM Mariano Rajoy has also announced the dissolution of the regional parliament and the removal of the Catalan leader, and called for snap local elections. Demonstrations for and against independence went on into the night. More are expected on Saturday, with a rally "for the unity of Spain and the constitution" to be held in Madrid.