Madrid draws up secret plot to stop Catalan independence

Graham Keeley, adrid
May 29 2017, 12:01am, The Times
Protesters against Catalan independence rally outside the town hall in MadridDANIEL OCHOA DE OLZA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Spain has drawn up a secret plan to stop Catalonia from declaring independence, which the prime minister said would have the same negative consequences as Brexit has had for Britain.

Madrid has not discounted taking over the regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, and has threatened legal action against any company that supplies the local authorities with equipment for the unofficial referendum that is expected this autumn. Catalonia accounts for 20 per cent of Spanish gross domestic product.

“The British were told Brexit would be great, and later some of them have seen that that was an exaggeration and they had been lied to,” Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, said. He has insisted that the proposed vote contravenes the country’s constitution.

Spain’s conservative government is determined to prevent a repeat of the non-binding poll on independence held in 2014, which was banned by law but which the separatist authorities in Catalonia staged anyway.

The Catalan authorities have been trying unsuccessfully to persuade Madrid to agree to holding a legitimate referendum in the style of Scotland’s poll in 2014.