Spain’s government met this morning to discuss the ongoing constitutional crisis in Catalonia, with a decision to remove the region’s autonomous powers expected.
Prime Minister Manuel Rajoy chaired a crisis meeting of the government’s cabinet to talk through their actions. He is expected to speak publicly this afternoon.
A rally in Barcelona, the regional capital, in support of the independence movement is due to be held later today.
Catalonia already enjoys a degree of autonomy, with its own regional parliament. However, under the Spanish constitution’s Article 155 the government has the power to impose direct rule from Madrid. The article gives the Spanish government wide-ranging powers to retake control of the apparatus of Catalonia’s institutions, including the police.
Catalonian leader Carles Puigdemont is expected to respond to Rajoy’s next move, with the possibility of a declaration of independence if Article 155 is invoked.
The constitution also prohibits the division of Spain, meaning the nation’s highest court has dismissed the legal basis of Catalonian independence movement.
Rajoy has repeatedly denounced the actions of the Catalonian government in calling an independence referendum at the start of the month. Puigdemont signed a declaration of independence on 10 October, but immediately suspended it, narrowly averting an escalation of the crisis.
Last night Rajoy said: “They have broken the law, and the rule of law is one of the basic principles of the European Union.”
The crisis came to a head on 2 October when Catalonia’s parliament organised the referendum. Millions of voters overwhelmingly chose independence, but on a turnout below 50 per cent as many boycotted the poll.
The Spanish police response, under orders from the government, was criticised as heavy handed as they tried to prevent people from voting. Hundreds of people were injured and images of violence were condemned around the world.
The crisis has weighed on the euro since the end of September, while the Spanish economy is expected to suffer a major hit from the disruption. Hundreds of businesses have moved their headquarters from the region, fearing chaos if independence is formally declared.