Catalan government unveils independence law ahead of vote

Nationalists say ‘there is still time for politics’ as Madrid insists there will be no referendum

People hold Catalan separatist flags on Catalonia day “Diada” in central Barcelona in 2014. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

People hold Catalan separatist flags on Catalonia day “Diada” in central Barcelona in 2014. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

 

Nationalists in Catalonia have insisted there is still time for them to negotiate with the Spanish government, just hours after unveiling a so-called “disconnection law” which they plan to implement immediately after a referendum on independence.

Carles Campuzano, a spokesman for the pro-independence Catalan European Democratic Party (PDECat), which is part of the region’s Junts pel Sí governing coalition, said on Tuesday that “there is still time for politics, before October 1st or after October 1st”, in reference to the date of the scheduled vote.

However, there is little indication that either side is willing to give ground.

The central government of Mariano Rajoy has deemed the referendum illegal and vowed to block it, while on Monday the Junts pel Sí coalition presented legislation with which it plans to give an independent Catalonia a legal framework.

The Bill, called the Law of Transitional Jurisprudence and Foundation of the Catalan Republic, seeks to allow the planned new state to use existing Spanish laws where necessary.

It also specifically addresses certain potential problems that an independent Catalonia could face. For example, it states that Catalans will not have to renounce their citizenship of any other country (such as Spain), as well as keeping existing EU regulations in place.

Amnesties

The Bill also proposes amnesties for those who have faced legal action for their role in the independence process. Several senior Catalan politicians have been sanctioned for organising an informal, non-binding independence vote in 2014, including former Catalan premier Artur Mas, who was barred from office for two years in March.

The Junts pel Sí coalition has agreed to push the law, and a Bill laying out the conditions of the referendum, through the Catalan parliament before the October vote.

“This law lends judicial security to the period immediately following the referendum if the yes vote wins,” said Lluís Corominas, of Junts pel Sí, explaining that the legislation would come into effect straight after such a result.

The Catalan government has said it will declare independence within 48 hours of a Yes result, before drawing up a new constitution. If voters rejected independence, a regional election would be called.

All of this depends on the referendum actually taking place, which is far from certain given the central government’s opposition.

Unionist front

Mr Rajoy met with Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez on Monday in an effort to show a united unionist front. Both men oppose the referendum, although Mr Sánchez has criticised the government for failing to offer Catalans a set of reforms as an alternative to the independence project.

Socialist spokesman Óscar Puente said after the meeting that Mr Rajoy and Mr Sánchez agreed that “there will be no referendum”.

In the event the referendum does happen, polls suggest that the Yes vote will win, although with many of those opposed to independence likely to stay at home, a low turnout is possible.

Tensions surrounding the referendum issue were on display on Saturday in Barcelona, where many participants booed King Felipe and Mr Rajoy during a march to condemn the recent terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils and to pay tribute to their 16 victims.