Catalonia has declared independence from Spain in a controversial vote in the Catalan Parliament, sparking Spain’s biggest constitutional crisis for several decades.
The resolution to break away from Spain overwhelmingly passed 70-10 with two abstentions after MPs from the People’s Party, the Socialists’ Party of Catalonia and Citizens boycotted the vote on independence.
Thousands of separatists were seen rejoicing in the streets of the capital, Barcelona, celebrating the declaration of independence, setting off fireworks in celebration at the news.
In response, the Spanish Senate overwhelmingly voted in favour of invoking Article 155, allowing Spain to suspend the Catalan Parliament and impose direct rule from Madrid.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told senators earlier today that Article 155 and direct rule was required to return Catalonia to “law, democracy and stability”.
In a speech to the country this evening, Rajoy dismissed the Catalan government, calling today a sad day for Spain, and announced fresh elections for December 21. He has also dismissed the Director General of the Catalan Police.
The independence motion called for legal powers to be transferred from Spain to the new self-proclaimed Catalan Republic. However, the Spanish Constitutional Court is almost certain to declare the move illegal and the international community has been quick to voice its support for the Spanish government.
The US State Department has given its backing to Spain; in a statement, spokesperson Heather Neuert said: “Catalonia is an integral part of Spain and the United States support the Spanish government’s constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united.”
Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the ALDE group in the European Parliament, echoed these comments, calling the declaration a “fake independence” and called for an end to “this march of the folly”.
Similar statements have been issues by NATO, the European Union and many governments including Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Serbia and Ukraine.
Meanwhile, separatists across the Catalan Republic have been seen taking down the Spanish flag, and in some cases the EU flag as well.
Spain’s stock exchange, the IBEX 35, closed down 1.45% on fears for the future for Spain following Catalonia’s decision to break away.
The crisis follows a month of uncertainty in Spain starting when Catalonia voted 90% in favour for independence in a controversial and disrupted referendum on October 1, which saw Spanish police forcibly stop citizens from voting in the ‘illegal’ poll. Almost 900 people were injured in clashes with police.
Over the last few weeks, several businesses have moved their business out of Catalonia to Madrid after concerns of the implications of an independence declaration.
Population: 7.5 million (2016)
Economy: €200 billion (2014 – 48th in the world)
Capital: Barcelona (1.6m people)
Currency: Euro (de facto)
16% of Spain’s population
25.6% of Spain’s exports
19% of Spain’s GDP
20.7% of Spain’s foreign investment