Spain in some turmoil as it contemplates Brexit scenarios

Catalan nationalists insist the EU would welcome their very prosperous region as a member quickly after independence

 

The whirlwind unleashed by Brexit within Britain’s increasingly dysfunctional family of nations has stirred things up in the even more fractious Spanish household of nationalities. In particular, Spanish and Catalan nationalists advocate contrasting scenarios for post-Brexit Scotland. For Madrid, the prospect of an independent Scotland within the EU is an appalling vista; for separatists in Barcelona, it’s a comforting analogy for their own future.

Catalan nationalists insist the EU would welcome their very prosperous region as a member very quickly after independence

Brexit’s repercussions in Edinburgh are not good for the conservative Spanish government, as they coincide with critical points in the route towards independence mapped out by Catalan nationalists. Earlier this month, the former first minister of Catalonia Artur Mas was barred from office because he had organised an independence referendum deemed illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court. The Catalan autonomous parliament responded by accelerating moves towards unilateral secession.

There is hardly any evidence of a ‘Spexit’ movement, even among the hard right

Catalan nationalists insist the EU would welcome their very prosperous region as a member very quickly after independence; Madrid has repeatedly insisted it would veto any such negotiations. The EU generally regards the territorial integrity of its members as sacrosanct; a number of them, and especially Spain, have a vested interest in opposing any other member’s fragmentation. But Catalans can now point to considerable sympathy across the union to Scottish independence and continued EU membership post-Brexit.

Yet Spain is an exceptionally strong supporter of the EU. There is hardly any evidence of a ‘Spexit’ movement, even among the hard right that nests comfortably within the governing Partido Popular (PP). So it does seem a little contradictory that Madrid insists an independent Scotland would get a cold welcome from the EU, just in order to assert that an independent Catalonia would be ostracised by Brussels.

But is a unilaterally independent Catalonia really on the cards? It still seems very unlikely. Yet so many apparently unbreakable moulds have been broken recently that it can hardly be ruled out.

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