It seems like a rotten sequel to an already very bad film. If you thought “Brexitmania” was bad, now we have the very latest cheap remake on a theme that is well past its “sell by” date. In deciding to go it alone, Catalonia has done exactly what the UK did, on 23rd june 2016. Without thinking of the future, the Catalans have ripped up the present. However, in stripping the Catalan parliament of its government, and organising new elections, Madrid has done what it had to do. Whereas Madrid ignored the Catalan referendum that was declared illegal, the UK government abided by the result of a referendum that was not only deeply flawed, but also advisory – not mandatory.
At least as far as Brexit is concerned, the EU and UK have until March 29th, 2019, to realize that no agreement whatsoever can be reached. Everybody will be prepared for the day that the UK crashes out of the EU.
In declaring a state of independence, Catalonia has gone one step further into the irrational, and presented Spain with a fait-accompli – a new state within a state, without even saying “adios“. The region is now more divided than ever, with some of its inhabitants living in Spain, whilst others do not – at least in their minds.
If all the regions of Europe that possess their own languages, culture and idiosyncrasies, want to break up from the rest, Jean-Claude Juncker might as well deliver a “state of the Dis-Union” speech, next time around. Either that, or he will be speaking to a non-existent audience. At this rate, the break-up of the Arctic ice-cap will be occurring at snail’s pace, compared to the break-up of Europe.
Money, for the Catalans, seems to have played a big part in the people’s aspirations for independence. Catalonia has long been an economically important region of Spain. It is estimated that if the region does manage to gain its independence, Spain may lose up to 20% of its economy, not least because Catalonia is a major exporting region, and the source of considerable tax revenues. Financial considerations were, of course, partially responsible for the Brexit vote. A deceitful promise that £350m per week would go into the NHS, coupled with paranoia concerning immigrants, were two major reasons why the UK voted to leave the EU. Catalonia has had enough of paying for everybody else, echoing David Cameron’s “rebate“. This has long been present in the Catalan air.
It is quite noteworthy that certain voices in the press are displaying extreme prudence in criticizing Catalonia’s aspirations to independence.
Secession, in a democratic Spain inside a democratic Europe, has to be pursued calmly and honestly. The Observer, September 24th 2017
Certain political parties find it equally hard to position themselves on this question, and end up not supporting one side or the other. The French socialist party‘s view expressed ambivalence, and is typical of the muted political stance, concerning the Catalan question,
The nationalism of the Catalan government cannot continue to accelerate its self-determination, and the People’s Party central government, in Madrid, cannot persist durably on a line of total intransigence.
The French socialist party are very restrained on this, almost accusing the Spanish government of not listening.
Why is right-wing nationalism based on xenophobia so easily condemned, whilst left-wing nationalism based on “defending” cultural minorities passes unnoticed, or is easily accepted? Both ideologies contain the word “nationalism”.
Leaving the financial aspect aside, it is quite clear that a dangerous amalgamation is being made, comprising cultural identity and nationalism. Catalonia already has its own cultural identity that is, to my knowledge, not under threat from Madrid. The same can be said for the Catalan language, freely practiced within the region. Even politically, Catalonia has extensive autonomous powers.
Almost unnoticed, a very small extreme-left-wing Catalonian political party, the CUP, is playing a pivotal role in Catalonia’s pursuit of independence, and aligning itself with the more liberal Catalonian minority government. Ironically, one of the few political parties to have seen this – albeit for the wrong reasons (blaming the EU and Spain’s pro-EU stance) – is France’s National Front.
The National Front regrets the sectarian attitude of the freedom fighters supported by the totalitarian and undemocratic Catalan extreme-left who initiated this process against a decision of a constitutional court.
The CUP’s political agenda is clear-cut. The party will use all possible alliances to implement its policies, that include the “incorporation” of the Catalan Countries – regions that lie well beyond Barcelona. Acting at a municipal level, the CUP favours a hard-line socialist platform, comprising nationalisations of transportation and communication networks, and withdrawal from the EU and NATO.
It seems that Catalonia and the UK are desperately trying to escape from the grasp of a whimsical oppressor. Both insist on living in a fantasy world that no longer exists. The quest for independence is not to flee oppression. For Catalonia, General Franco’s grasp on Spain disappeared decades ago. For the UK, the “monsters” from Brussels are not as dangerous as they are made out to be. Neither is it a quest to escape poverty, since Catalonia is not a poor region, and the UK is the world’s fifth largest economy.
The crucial unanswered question concerning the future of Catalonia is similar, if not identical, to the one concerning the UK. Voting “yes” on a ballot paper is not the same as voting for a future that has been carefully planned and discussed. Once the Catalans have cut themselves loose from the chains of the Spanish monarchy, and the European “Roman Empire”, what will they do, and where will they go? Probably to the streets, rejoicing in their new-found freedom, away from the mortally wounded Spanish and the terrified Europeans. For the neutral onlooker, it will be deeply emotional, seeing all these men, women, and children, chanting a famous victory. Ask them about tomorrow, and they will tell you that, “tomorrow’s another day, we’ll see what happens, when it comes“. In the cool of the evening, after the celebrations, the streets of the city will be deserted. Barcelona are playing in the semi-finals of the Champions League, clearly showing that there are much more important things in life, than the consequences of having said “yes” in an illegal referendum.