Business MANOEUVRES pressure Catalonia in crisis


Spain's deputy prime minister says the Spanish government will be ready to act if Catalan separatist leaders go ahead and declare independence on Tuesday as they have promised.

The Catalan leader is set to address the regional parliament on Tuesday "to report on the current political situation".

The Catalan authorities say more than 90 percent of those who voted backed secession, but opinion polls on the issue suggest the region is more closely divided.

Earlier, thousands of people rallied across the country for Spanish unity.

Puigdemont, a former journalist and not a career politician, said he is not afraid of going to jail over independence. "I believe we know what Spaniards think, and they should know that the government, too, is clear about what it has to do", he said.

"If independence were to be recognized - which is not something that's being discussed - the most immediate outcome would be that (Catalonia) automatically left the European Union", she said.

He also urged moderate Catalan nationalists to distance themselves from the "radicals" in the separatist camp who are pushing hardest for an independence move.

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"I want to say one thing with complete clarity: while the threat of a declaration of independence does not disappear from the political panorama it is going to be very hard for the government not to make decisions", he warned.

The French European Affairs minister says France won't recognize Catalonia if it unilaterally declares independence from Spain.

Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, said on Saturday he would not rule out removing Catalonia's government and calling a fresh local election if it claimed independence, as well as suspending the wealthy region's existing autonomous status.

At the same time increasing the economic pressure on supporters of independence, because a number of companies have already announced a possible postponement of their offices outside of Catalonia.

Their fears are based not only on the short-term difficulties and disruption to trade patterns that any move to secede might trigger, but also the permanent damage that a successful separation from Spain, and thus the European Union, would cause.

Ever since Spain's return to democracy in the 1970s, Madrid has struggled to balance the country's patchwork of regional identities, including its decades-long fight to quell separatism in the northern Basque Country led by violent militants ETA.

Catalonia, a northeastern region about the size of Belgium, is home to 7.5 million people and accounts for a fifth of Spain's economy. Less than half the electorate of the region participated in the vote last Sunday.