Sparta Report

Spain Believes It Has Regained Control of Catalonia

The Spanish are correct in their belief. After the independence referendum, the Catalonian Separatist government balked at declaring independence, instead trying to enter into negotiations with Madrid. The negotiations failed, and Catalonia declare independence anyway.

And then nothing actually happened. Spain proceeded to remove the government, and Catalan president fled immediately, and the parliament offered little resistance to its dissolution. No one even fired a shot.

The Catalan independence movement is dead. They missed their big moment because no one was actually willing to put anything on the line to resist Madrid:

Underestimating the strength of feeling that the push for independence would provoke among pro-Spanish Catalans and elsewhere in Spain was just one of a series of misjudgments by Catalonia’s separatist leaders, five of whom including the former president, Carles Puigdemont, are now in exile in Belgium. Eight others are being held in prison on charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds.

The Catalan separatist leadership also failed to anticipate the economic damage caused by their independence bid. Since October 1, when it briefly looked as if the Spanish state had lost control, 2,276 businesses representing 85% of the region’s market capitalization and 36.5% of regional gross domestic product have quit Catalonia, shifting their legal domicile elsewhere in Spain, according to the Spanish business lobby group Circulo de Empresarios.

In particular, the region’s two biggest banks, CaixaBank and Sabadell, have shifted their headquarters in a bid to reassure depositors. These moves will erode Catalonia’s tax base, particularly if jobs and ancillary services follow. Indeed, speaking at a rally in Barcelona over the weekend, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy urged businesses to remain in Catalonia to avoid inflicting further damage on the region.

Spanish ministers note that the imposition of direct rule and the arrest of the Catalan leadership hasn’t led to widespread disorder as some had predicted. They are also hopeful that the failure of the three pro-independence parties to reach an agreement to form an alliance for the elections as they did in 2015 reflects tactical splits among the separatists.

They also believe that the separatist cause was damaged by the admission by Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell in a bail hearing last week that she regarded the declaration of independence as “symbolic” and would in future agree to respect Spanish law.

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