Spanish Prime Minister Manuel Rajoy today announced the senate will vote on a call to dismiss the leaders of the Catalonian regional government, but insisted the government will not suspend autonomy permanently.
Speaking in Madrid, Rajoy said the government had invoked Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which allows them to impose direct rule, subject to a vote scheduled for Friday 27 October.
He said: "Imposing Article 155 was not our wish, nor our intention. We are applying it because we cannot accept the law being ignored."
Directo | Rajoy: "Imponer el 155 no era nuestro deseo ni nuestra intención. Lo aplicamos porque no se puede aceptar que se ignore la Ley" pic.twitter.com/3lZvDC1Otm— Europa Press (@europapress) October 21, 2017
He added: "No government of any democratic country can accept this very obvious flouting of the law."
The move, which was widely expected, came after a prolonged constitutional crisis which began when the Catalonian regional government organised an independence referendum. The Spanish government responded by ordering police to stop voting from taking place, leading to violence which was widely condemned around the world.
The referendum was followed by a declaration, albeit suspended, of independence by Catalonian president Carles Puigdemont, after millions of voters backed seceding.
The Spanish senate will vote on a bill to dismiss the referendum's organisers, Catalonia's president, vice president and ministers. Rajoy said he aims for elections to replace them to take place as soon as possible.
The Catalonian ministries will be taken over temporarily by central government, Rajoy said.
However, Rajoy said Catalonian autonomy will continue. He said: "We are not suspending autonomy; we are not suspending the Catalonian government."
Rajoy urged businesses to stay in Catalonia as he tried to portray a message that stability and calm will return.
Independence would lead to economic chaos, Rajoy said, as he insisted the region would have to leave the EU and the World Trade Organisation if it seceded.
Puigdemont is expected to respond later today.