Sovereignty and consent

Being neither a Spaniard nor a Catalan I do not take sides in the current political dispute over the future of the Spanish Union. I am interested, because it goes to the heart of the identity politics that have come to play a more prominent role in recent years throughout the EU area and in bordering states like Ukraine.  The EU itself where we remain members until 2019 has expressed a view, supporting the rule of law of the Spanish Union against the subordinated democratic Parliament of Catalonia and its wishes.

If the Spanish state had approached the Catalan independence movement as the UK Parliament did the Scottish independence movement, there may well have been a referendum in Catalonia that gave a victory to the Union. Instead the Spanish state denied Catalans a legal referendum under the Spanish constitution, and tried to prevent by force the referendum organised by the government of Catalonia which did not enjoy the legal backing of the Spanish Parliament. The use of force to close polling stations and to prevent people voting created bad scenes for world television, and has led to adverse comment when the Spanish Prime Minister claimed the force shown was proportionate. It seems likely that more Catalans would now vote for independence than before recent events.

This week the world waits with bated breath as the two sides plan their  next move. The Spanish state could use the national constitution to close the Catalan Parliament and demand new elections, or could seek to close down devolved government altogether. The Catalan government might  declare independence based on the results of its recent referendum even though this would be illegal under the national constitution. The Catalan nationalists might claim they had a popular mandate from their own elections and from the referendum, and were forced to act against the rules of the Spanish state owing to the unwillingness of Madrid to offer them legal means to pursue their democratic objectives. Would the Spanish state then seek to arrest the Catalan politicians? Would the Spanish state seek to displace police and officials loyal to the Catalan government, with police and officials loyal to the Union government?  We all hope this can  be handled peacefully without large demonstrations getting out of hand. It looks today as if  both sides want the other to make the next  big move, as they are engaged in a battle for support from those not strongly committed to either side.

Opinion is now split three ways in Spain. In Catalonia itself there is a strong movement for independence, though there is no definitive vote to tell us the true balance of opinion for or against. In Spain outside Catalonia and the Basque country there is a strong block of opinion behind the proposition that the state should enforce Spanish law against the Catalan government. There is then an emerging third force throughout Spain that wants the two sides to talk, to try to find a legal and democratic way through. The Spanish government does not welcome this, as it wishes to take a tough line to what it sees as a simple matter of law enforcement.

The Spanish government has facilitated businesses who want to take the precaution of switching HQ from Catalonia to somewhere else in Spain. This may be just to increase pressure on the Catalan government, as it is otherwise a sign that the Spanish state thinks secession possible. The Spanish state needs Catalonia, as the region contributes around 20% of Spanish national income whilst receiving around 11% of public spending.

This conflict evokes memories for some Spaniards of troubled twentieth century conflicts between Catalonia and the Spanish state. It highlights how the rule of law is  the important underpinning of free societies and prosperous democracies.

The rule of law  is a necessity for a flourishing commerce and for the safe enjoyment of people’s property and family lives. This rule of law depends on the consent of most of the people most of the time to the origins of that law in Parliament, and to the special powers of police and the courts to uphold it. These deep disputes about identity threaten that framework. If enough people in a democracy say they no longer accept a given Parliament, backed by a police force and court system, as the originators and enforcers of their rule of law, the politicians do have to work out how they can design a new framework which does command respect. If a small minority break laws they find inconvenient the state has an enforcement problem and the support of the people to enforce the law. If a majority of people no longer accept the law of a democratic  state the state has to think again.


  1. Lifelogic
    October 9, 2017

    The Spanish State made a huge mistake in their approach to this referendum – not much condemnations from the EU either to the violence. As you say:- If a majority of people no longer accept the law of a democratic state the state has to think again.

    This will be difficult given the State’s heavy handed and totally misguided approach so far.

    1. Lifelogic
      October 9, 2017

      I did not realise that you could get a Nobel Price for Economics just for working that people are often irrational in their economic (and indeed many other decisions)! I think I had come to the “they are often irrational conclusion” well before the age of ten.

      This does not mean that government should order them around though – as Government is usually far worse!

    2. Hope
      October 9, 2017

      JR, it is unclear why this matters to you so much when your party has been devoid of consent on a number of key constructional issues and breaks in promises that cost your party dearly at the election.

      Lisbon Treaty, Cameron did not give us the vote he claimed he would.
      EVEL, Cameron did not deliver what he told us on the steps of Downing Street.
      No English parliament yet we contribute the most taxes! Carving up England by regional mayors! We voted NO.
      He paid the extra £2.9 billion demand by the EU.
      He paid the £90 million for Strasbourg.
      The veto that never was, he did not stop EUrozone countries using EU institutions.
      He send the article 50 letter the day after the referendum, plus all the failures to prepare leaving.
      How about the diabolical dimentia tax! Low tax party.
      Taxing the young at university taxing the vulnerable elderly!
      Succession to the crown.
      Gay marriage.
      Going to war Lybia.
      Come on, when are you going to address the failures of the key issues to this country and your party? You would pick more votes if you did.

      1. NickC
        October 9, 2017

        To add to that sorry list how about Theresa May’s statement to the HoC today? She apparently wants to secure: “… a new, deep and special partnership with the [EU] …”

        We voted to Leave, not capitulate. We are making just the same mistake as Ted Heath’s government did in 1972 when Sir Con O’Niell said: “Swallow the lot, and swallow it now”. Mrs May is a prisoner of the civil service Remains and this will bake in trouble for decades to come.

        1. Hope
          October 10, 2017

          Worse she is wants the UK to remain under ECJ and EU rules. Does she not think that if the UK is legally obliged to do what it is told the EU might throw a couple spanners in to harm our economy ! May as no mandate for remaining longer than March 2019. To be under ECJ and EU rules is remaining in by any definition.

          If th UK was successful in leaving why would other countries not follow? It cannot allow this to be a good deal. This important point escapes so many other than the former BoE Lord King and Lord Lawson.

        2. Hope
          October 10, 2017

          Or as the French recollect they got a lot more than they thought possible claiming How do you want the English served up. These gutless traitorous politicians make my blood boil.

    3. Bob
      October 9, 2017

      The Spanish govt have an armada ready to invade if Catalonia issues a UDI.

      1. Prigger
        October 10, 2017

        You can’t invade your own country unless it is occupied by a foreign force and you as a citizen have been forced to leave it beforehand.

  2. Duncan
    October 9, 2017

    The Catalans expose the EU for what it is. While the Catalans yearn and fight for independence and sovereignty the EU beavers away attempting to destroy the independence and sovereignty of EU member states. The Catalans, decent and honest people. The EU, anti-democratic, indecent, rabid and slanderous.

    1. eeyore
      October 9, 2017

      Would Catalans be contemplating abandoning Spain had they not another umbrella, the EU, to shelter under? That certainly seemed to be the case with the Scots. If so, it’s one of the many ironies of what JR rightly identifies as a modern taste for identity politics.

      Another irony is that a respect for democracy (aka, in this context, the whim of the moment) leads to division. Had the great definer of democracy, Abraham Lincoln, thought along those lines, would we now have a USA? Would we still have slave states in the Deep South?

      Lincoln’s robust response to secession held his country together. Could it be that Madrid – riot police and all – is wiser than Westminster with its solicitous regard for Scottish sensibilities?

    2. Lifelogic
      October 9, 2017

      True thank goodness we are (well perhaps are) leaving.

    3. Chris
      October 9, 2017

      The Catalans, however, still very definitely want to remain part of the EU.

    4. Jonp
      October 9, 2017

      Duncan.. these problems with spain and the spanish regions have been there for hundreds of years- so I don’t know how you can hang it on the neck of the EU..i don’t think Junker was ever in spain in his life. The only way to avoid these regonal disputes and conflicts throughout Europe is probably by more EU. If the Catalan activists/ extremists, could only see the end result of breaking away with the disasterous consequences of their actions, ie. Probable loss of trade with the EU, probable loss of trade with countries that have trade agreements with the EU then I think they would seriously reconsider the road they are on. What is needed now is mediation and sensible discussion

    5. NickC
      October 9, 2017

      The EU’s policy is to break up nation states into regions, like Scotland or Catalonia. That’s what the Committee of the Regions is for. That’s why fig-leaf MEPs are elected regionally.

      The EU pretends not to notice how its actions undermine the nation state, even occasionally sides with the nation. But it’s all bluff. It’s called divide and conquer; it’s as old as the hills; and it’s coming to a region near you.

      1. Lifelogic
        October 9, 2017


    6. stred
      October 9, 2017

      Re. ‘decent and honest people’. I was persuaded that living in Spain could be a good idea about 15 years ago and looked at various properties on the Costa. I was warned off buying on some estates, as the mayor had put the responsibility for paying for drains and roads to future development on the existing owner. I found a new estate of well designed houses which would not fall into this trap and visited to check the progress on site. The plans showed a nine inch party wall. They had built them with two inch thick hollow clay blockwork. When I complained and asked for nine inch concrete I was told that they had my name as a trouble maker and no developer in Spain would sell me anything. I said ‘fine, as I won’t be returning.

      Unfortunately, I had to fly to Barcelona recently in order to drive to my house just over the border in France. Then we waited 3 hours to pick up the hire car, while they extorted more payments for fuel and insurance from unwilling customers. The queue was 10m long. When I returned, I filled the tank full right by the car park. When the account came, they had taken the cost of filling the tank off my card.

      The Spanish people I have met have all been very nice, but apart from being too hot in Spain, I think it is clear why so many of them prefer to live in the UK. I hope they don’t blow up the Familiara Sagrada while settling their differences and have to start again.

    7. Ed Mahony
      October 9, 2017

      ‘The Catalans expose the EU for what it is’

      – I really think this is more about Catalonia and Spain than the EU!

      Saying that, the EU has weakened the idea of a strong, sovereign state loosening Madrid’s grip over Catalonia and London’s over Scotland which i think is a bad thing.

      Saying that, the idea of a less strong, sovereign UK has ameliorated the bitterness of violent Republicans in Northern Ireland and of violent Basque separatists. So, in general, the EU has been better, overall, regarding these regional parts of Europe, at least in helping to take away the sting of violence.

      I want a strong UK and Spain. But then there’s the problem of violent Republicanism in N. Ireland and violent Basque separatism. I just think we need to be careful about taking polar positions in all these political situations, including being ideologically strongly for or against the EU. We need to be pragmatic as well.

    8. Ed Mahony
      October 9, 2017

      ‘While the Catalans yearn and fight for independence and sovereignty’

      – Catalonia can’t afford to go independent. Same for Scotland.

  3. Mike Stallard
    October 9, 2017

    Nationalism is a bad word within the EU.
    However it is tremendously powerful in fact.
    Snr Rajoy has forgotten this. The Colleagues in the EU now face, in addition to a sinking economy, mass immigration, Brexit, Greek bankruptcy and inherent corruption, the prospect of another Spanish civil war.
    And the answer to all this?
    More Europe!

    1. Know-Dice
      October 9, 2017

      And the answer to all this?
      More Europe!

      Got it in one Mike…

      But speaking to some Spanish colleagues based in Madrid, their attitude is “better together” and they approve of an enhanced EU army !!!

    2. forthurst
      October 9, 2017

      Another Spanish civil war is unlikely. International bolshevism no lomger exists in the form it existed in the thirties so from where will the influx of priest-killing, Christian church destroying mass murderers come this time? Now, the ever present enemy is content to push mass migration, feminism, transgenderism etc.

      1. Mitchel
        October 10, 2017

        Even then the situation was complex with Stalin having a greater desire to destroy the Trotskyist factions of the Left than to defeat the fascist Right.

    3. Lifelogic
      October 9, 2017

      More EU is always the EU’s answer to everything.

      Then again more government intervention, taxation and red tape is also the stock answer from May and Hammond – to almost everything.

  4. Dame Rita Webb
    October 9, 2017

    Funny how the MSM has been strangely silent about Putin being behind all this. I would have thought with his uncanny ability to manipulate every political event in the West, this
    would have been yet another piece in the jigsaw of his breaking up the EU.

    1. JJE
      October 9, 2017

      Yes, Putin is the elephant in the room. His people are very effective in finding the fault lines in our societies and forcing them apart.
      I imagine he would argue the West was using these tactics against Russia for some years before.

      1. Mitchel
        October 10, 2017

        Their media certainly highlight these fractures much more than ours.

        There was,for instance,an interview about the forthcoming referendums in Italy’s Veneto & Lombardia regions with Matteo Salvini,leader of the Northern League Party,by Sophie Shevarnadze on RT’s Sophie & Co current affairs strand last night.I only had time to watch the first few minutes;will try to catch the rest later this week.

    2. Mitchel
      October 9, 2017

      Niall Ferguson hinted at it on Andrew Neill’s show on Thursday night whilst promoting his new book.

    3. Diogenes
      October 9, 2017

      Putin behind the Catalan problem? What have you been smoking?

      1. Dame Rita Webb
        October 9, 2017

        Nothing but Woodbines it is just strange the MSM are not blaming him for it as they do for any other perceived threat to the status quo

  5. agricola
    October 9, 2017

    A very balanced summary. The irony is that if the five presidents have their way in the EU then Spain and others will be reduced to the status of one of it’s provinces, moving democracy even further from the people.

    1. Lifelogic
      October 9, 2017

      Indeed, not so much irony as appalling and very dangerous.

    2. LenD
      October 9, 2017

      Agricola..I was once passing in the lonely South Atlantic Ocean where we hadn’t met another ship for days when the Captain spyed a ship way off on the horizon and had the officer to signal by lamp. Well after a while we could see there was no reply and the Captain then remarked- “he must be a foreigner” and with that the officer quietly replied ‘ capt out here we are all foreigners” .. but i could see that the poor old captain still didn’t get it. So you see it’s all in the eye of the beholder..

  6. Caterpillar
    October 9, 2017

    Though the situation in Spain is disastrous, it is at least more honest than that of the UK. In Spain the Catalonia Parliament is sticking to what it says, whilst Madrid is also stocking to what it says.

    In the UK two referenda are simply ignored. The SNP ignores the Scottish referendum, whilst all parties ignore the Brexit one. The Conservatives keep negotiating a best deal, following exPM Cameron’s shirking of responsibility. The UK did not vote to deal, it voted to leave. Meanwhile Lab drifts towards Custom Union etc, whilst Lib ignore the vote altogether.

    It is dangerous in Spain, but seemingly honest. The UK..?

    1. bigneil
      October 9, 2017

      Honesty? in the govt here? after decades of lies about the true aim of the EU? Decades of lies from both parties about immigration numbers. Now yet more lies about leaving when it is clear that the govt’s aim is to be at the EU “top table” – living the life of super luxury and power after all European nations ( except one ) have been destroyed. With the likes of a certain person saying “the Brexit vote was the working class throwing a tantrum” – -their contempt for most of the electorate shines brightly.

  7. sm
    October 9, 2017

    I have read that in the various legal or illegal referenda held on the issue of Catalonian independence, the results (pro-independence) were based on very low turnouts.

    I do not begin to understand why it is beyond the wit of Governments to insist on a clause in any and every Referendum Bill that states that to become law, there must be a minimum turnout of 70% of eligible voters.

    This should have been done in the recent EU and Scottish referenda and in the referenda on whether London (and other cities) should have a ‘super’ Mayor (hurray! another layer of bureaucrats and politicians, welcome to the gravy train!).

    1. Denis Cooper
      October 9, 2017

      But there was no valid Referendum Bill, the referendum was illegal!

    2. a-tracy
      October 9, 2017

      The Manchester Mayor was on our radio news this morning, saying rent arrears are so bad in Manchester at the moment that when Universal Credit comes in he’s going to have a massive homeless problem. My first thought was if Universal Credit doesn’t exist now and the current system is better now how and why are so many in rent arrears? If people aren’t paying for the key fundamental ‘a roof over their head’ and the government is paying them housing benefit to pay the rent they are not capable of living independently and perhaps we need to think of new housing where they have like student lodgings with a room shared kitchen, paid members of the block to keep the kitchens and bathrooms clean to offset against their rent and start social parenting people that aren’t capable of going solo because of poor parenting and budgeting, then give them education classes and help them back into work and housing when they are skilled and more capable.

      1. Miss Brandreth-Jones
        October 10, 2017

        The mindset is similar to that Elizabeth Gaskell wrote about. The hungry forties in Manchester grew people who were starving, homeless, yet reliant on cocaine to take the pain away. You will not change these people.It is tragic and education does not play a part. It is the will to find a solution which doesn’t exist for them and the action to bury their head in the sand provides temporary relief.

        1. a-tracy
          October 11, 2017

          I think you can change people, in fact, I’ve helped several people like this, got a few back into full-time work after years wasting away from one cash in hand job to another, finding one new girlfriend to bunk with after another (none giving them a permanent address because it affects their benefits). I’ve persuaded others a life on benefits as a single mother can be a problem when the child hits 17 now 19 and they should train whilst they can, hairdresser, social worker, mechanic among just some of the occupations these women now work in.

          As a Country we reward and encourage bad behaviour, if you’ve no hope of leaving your parents home because of sky-high rents and your own low educational achievement, then getting pregnant at 16-18 and getting kicked out into a flat to start with or a private rental that the state pays housing benefit for is a very attractive option especially if several of your friends are doing the same thing at the same time.

    3. svcop3
      October 9, 2017

      Why should it require a turnout of 70%?

    4. Roy Grainger
      October 9, 2017

      Setting a 70% turnout limit makes no sense, if turnout is 69% and they all vote to oppose the goverment line then you just ignore it ? Also why not apply the turnout logic to general elections ? If turnout in a constituency is less than 70% then the sitting MP continues ? – the way to do it would be to make voting mandatory and include an “abstain” option on the paper but this has had problematic results in Australia (the unengaged just tick boxes at random to get it over with).

    5. lo
      October 9, 2017

      Good try but EU Referendum turnout was 72.2%.

      1. Edward2
        October 9, 2017

        Well responded Lo.
        If it was a 100% turnout and an overwhelming majority to leave those who want us to remain in the EU would create some spurious reason for demanding a second vote.

      2. formula57
        October 9, 2017

        And all voters were given the chance to vote and encouraged to do so (contrasting to the Catalaonian case of course where the central government said it would ignore the vote and enjoined voters to abstain from participating), all in the belief that per D.Cameron that the Article 50 Notice would be served soon after the result was known. (To be fair to D. Cameron, I do not think that vow was represented as “a cast-iron guarantee”.)

  8. Ian Wragg
    October 9, 2017

    Very pertinent article on what might happen in the UK if you renege on Brexit.
    Many of the conditions suffered by Catalonia are similar to our problems with the EU.
    We pay a disproportionate levy and are treated with contempt.
    Our political class are out of touch with the voters and there is an underlying feeling we will be shafted.
    There may very well be insurrection in Britain if the likes of Hammond and Starmer get their way.

    1. Lifelogic
      October 9, 2017

      Indeed Hammond and Starmer plus the many similar types present a very dangerous threat to UK democracy and even UK stability.

    2. sm
      October 9, 2017

      But the Catalonians, like the SNP, want to ditch their long-time partner and be subservient to the EU! Where’s the logic in that?

    3. JJE
      October 9, 2017

      You need the young people on your side for an insurrection to happen and you don’t have them.

      1. Caterpillar
        October 9, 2017

        JJE, I think your observation is incorrect, there are many young people who seem to wish to rise up against the establishment, this has been tapped into by the opposition, they do not need any particular belief to raise up in favour of, there are some who are simply ‘against’. I think there is a real risk that this feeling will be used if Parliament, not just Govt doesn’t get its act together.

    4. lo
      October 9, 2017

      May has just announced that the ECJ will retain jurisdiction during any transitional arrangement so we’re not leaving the RU.

  9. Denis Cooper
    October 9, 2017

    “If the Spanish state had approached the Catalan independence movement as the UK Parliament did the Scottish independence movement … ”

    Spain has a codified constitution which was approved by a referendum across the whole of Spain, and which can only be amended with final approval of the amendment in a similar referendum held across the whole of Spain. And it was not just the Spanish government which declared that a Catalonian independence referendum would be illegal – in breach of the constitution as it stands – but also the Spanish constitutional court.

    The obvious answer would be for the government of Spain to initiate the rather difficult process of amending the Spanish constitution to allow a legal Catalonian independence referendum to take place. Of course there would be the possibility that the Spanish as a whole might then vote against the amendment proposed by the government even if it had been approved by the parliament as necessary.

    In the case of the UK and the last Scottish referendum the relevant UK constitutional document was an Act of the sovereign UK Parliament, the Scotland Act 1998, which included a Section 30 which allowed the government to propose what amounted to a constitutional amendment just through an Order in Council approved by both Houses of Parliament, with no need for a UK-wide referendum to ask the rest of us to agree to an independence referendum being held in Scotland.

  10. Ed Mahony
    October 9, 2017

    Nationalism is greatly over-rated. Take Ireland.

    – The bitter violence of the civil war.

    – The dour, staid nationalism of de Valera’s Ireland

    – The violent, nasty Republicanism of the 1970’s and later

    And for what? For Ireland’s politicians, developers and bankers to screw the Irish during the Celtic Tiger.

    Similar things can be said about nationalism in other countries. Whether it be the nationalism of the Nazis, the Napoleonic wars, and so on.

    Nationalism isn’t really love of country. It’s more about fear of / thinking yourself better than other countries.

    Patriotism, on other hand, is quite different. It’s about genuine love of country. A virtue, based on work ethic, not looking down on the poor, and not being jealous of the rich, ‘with privilege comes responsibility’, and love of one’s people, nature and arts, and healthy respect for other nations especially where one can borrow and be inspired by what’s best about other countries.

    We need a strong UK right now. And Spain needs a strong Spain. Not regions breaking off. Just makes countries less safe and stable in general. Viva Espana.

  11. Denis Cooper
    October 9, 2017

    Off-topic, referring back to a comment I made yesterday about the high level of “churn” in the UK jobs market:

    I see here today:

    “The damage to the City from Brexit is “going to be quite considerable over time” and will result in job losses, the chairman of RBS has warned. Sir Howard Davies said there would “definitely be a cost” to British jobs, adding that the question was whether Britain could negotiate enough market access so that the cost is not tens of thousands.”

    That hope that there will not be “tens of thousands” of job losses over time should be seen in the context of the millions of jobs destroyed and new jobs created every year.

    Incidentally this bloke seems to be blaming the UK government for the fact that the EU arbitrarily and obstinately refuses to even start trade negotiations.

  12. Anonymous
    October 9, 2017

    Scottish independence good
    Catalonian independence bad.

    German unification good. UK unification bad.

  13. Bert Young
    October 9, 2017

    The ” Ifs ” and ” Buts ” of the quandary in Spain is a reflection of a country with poor government . The regional differences in the economy of Spain exacerbate against a degree of unity that is badly required . Of course the richer bits are resentful of the poorer bits , of course the poorer bits feel they should have equality through extra financing ; we have exactly this situation in the UK .

    A strong national identity can only be won through leadership and , when this is weak , all sorts of mayhem ensue . Rajoy should now resign and let democracy in Spain create a new Government .

  14. David Murfin
    October 9, 2017

    Many who comment here and elsewhere seem to assume that because the Catalans want independence from Spain, they wish to leave the EU. Perverse though it seems, that is not so.

  15. A.Sedgwick
    October 9, 2017

    The EU is the root cause of this dilemma and their response or lack of it highlights this. We are now seeing how locked in a country can become even when not in the Euro and with a clear mandate to get out. Obviously a softly softly approach by Madrid was the answer and the end product may be the same i.e. greater devolution to Catalonia but still under the EU thumb. The irony as with Eire and the SNP is they want to remain dominated by Brussels.

    If Catalonia wanted to be Hong Kong or Singapore then the problem would be acute for Madrid and Brussels, but as it doesn’t it really is handbags.

  16. Duncan
    October 9, 2017

    My contempt for the British political class (and that includes the parasitic Civil Service) is growing by the day. Should these ‘people’ circumvent democracy I believe you will see a backlash against both the abominable Labour Party but also a massive move towards UKIP and that will smash the Tories into a minority

    The tories should understand that should they try and betray the trust of the British people they will regret it at the Ballot Box

    Decent British people needed a UKIP presence in the Commons to balance out the pro-EU anti-UK presence in the Tory party and to see the full implementation of our leaving the EU.

    If May gets rid of Boris and replaces him with the despicable Rudd then all is lost and the EU referendum will have been for nothing

    What we are witnessing is the slow destruction of direct democracy and the TORIES will be to blame

    You know something John, I don’t even trust you to do the right thing. Support for May is support for the UK’s membership of the EU or some other form of EU(EEA) quasi-membership

  17. Oldwulf
    October 9, 2017

    Maybe Catalonia should make a divorce payment to Spain. Presumably this would receive the agreement of the EU.

  18. English Pensioner
    October 9, 2017

    Yet again, people are showing their desire to be governed in smaller units rather than larger ones. People like to feel that those running their region are in-touch with their needs and are one of them. But all the time there is pressure from central government which wishes to take more control ignoring the fact that people in different parts of the country have different ambitions. This has happened in the UK where the County Councils are told what to do by Central Government rather than allowing them to make their own decisions, which has led, where I live to the County, in turn, trying to merge and take over the District Councils.
    I suspect one of the main reasons that the US hasn’t broken up is because the individual states still have considerable autonomy over a wide range of issues and any attempt by central government to take over is fought tooth and nail! Indeed, the impression that I got when speaking to Americans is that they are more concerned about what is happening in the State legislature than in Washington.
    If Spain, and the EU, had adopted a policy where things were only standardised and controlled centrally when it is absolutely necessary, the easier it would have been to take their citizens along with them.

  19. Denis Cooper
    October 9, 2017

    I have just read, no matter where:

    “Michael Gove is demanding that Britain pull out of Europe’s common fisheries policy immediately after Brexit in a move that Brussels has warned could harm the prospects of a “no change” transition deal.”

    What the hell is a “”no change” transition deal”? Is it the same as the barmy “standstill” transition deal I have seen mentioned before?

    The whole idea of a transition is that it involves change, change from some starting position to some finishing position; so from whence has come this idea that we would leave the EU on March 29th 2019 but without anything changing for some years, or possibly forever according to one Labour politician?

    I carefully re-read Theresa May’s Florence speech:

    and I cannot see anything which could reasonably be interpreted as:

    “We want a period after we have left the EU when nothing at all has changed and nothing at all will change until the end of that “no change” transition period”.

  20. Epikouros
    October 9, 2017

    From the sidelines it appears there are two groups opposing each other that contain an element of the nasty and vicious. Hard line left wing nationalists seeking independence for their nefarious reasons and an authoritarian government that will brook no dissent. By their actions the government has incompetently played into the nationalist’s hands and exposed themselves as nothing but legalised thugs. The nationalists having cleverly orchestrated the governments action by hold the referendum knowing full well that it would push the government into acting rashly and thereby help in recruiting more sympathy and support.

    It is telling that the EU is acting in a similar way with it’s own independence problem with the UK. No doubt it would dearly love to escalate Brexit negotiations to the level that Spain has and bash us over our stubborn heads for having the temerity to want independence. It will not come to that for obvious reasons but their unpleasant and obstructive rhetoric and every deceitful actions they can think of will continue until either the UK capitulates or leaves without a deal. Even after which they will not accept losing the UK gracefully. Once power is given away and we did give ours away to Brussels like sheep then those who posses it will not give it up without a fierce struggle.

  21. fedupsoutherner
    October 9, 2017

    Well until we actually see a complete Brexit then the UK is no more democratic than Spain is! It would see democracy is being watered down in many countries including ours.

  22. Rob Betteridge
    October 9, 2017

    In our contortions over Brexit we are mesmerised by “what’s in it for me” as are most voters in every election, which is why Labour win every now and then by offering the proletariat more of their own money by way of Government largesse rather than lower taxes.
    Actually what we are in is a battle for Democracy against Federalisation. Brussels can’t be seen to loose. It is fighting for Survival, we are only fighting for Freedom, which doesn’t seem to mean much to those of our politicians who frittered it away.
    Brussels & Merkel bet the Euro that we would capitulate and toe their line. There are always loosers in every bet/war. This war is being fought with words & money ; at least that’s an improvement on the last two.
    From the times of the Magna Carta democracy wins in the long run, but it may take some time before reality sinks into Europe, we are, after all, a few centuries ahead of them.
    Democracy is ‘For the Many not the Few’ and the ‘many’ are most interested in “what’s in it for me”. One doesn’t need to be terribly numerate to know that whilst £350 million might not be correct to the last decimal – it’s still a hell of a lot of moola .
    Cameron was right ; the Conservatives need to be more worried by the 52% than by Corbyn.

  23. Colin Hart
    October 9, 2017

    For decades the Euro-federalists have been encouraging regionalism as a means to breaking down the nation state. It’s come back to bite them.

  24. BartD
    October 9, 2017

    We have to understand that Spain is only one generation away from dictatorship. Tens of thousands of Catalans died, a lot were executed by Franco in the late 1930’s early 1940’s even while the black flag of the Catalan anarchists was still flying in some parts of Barcelona. Fast forward to today, if the Catalans persist then we can expect the army to move in and central government will take over. There has to be a clear signal to other regions that would have a similar mind for breaking away that- OK – things will have to be rearranged but will have to be done in an orderly way to avoid chaos and the spread of chaos.

    On another note Mrs May is going to say today that the ball is in the EU court following her speech in Florence, but that one has already been answered by the EU side, it’s all looking rather flat now- I don’t hold out much hope for a successful conclusion- too much time has been wasted.

  25. JoolsB
    October 9, 2017

    If only our politicians would spend less time worrying about Catalonia and spend more time (any time would be nice) on the undemocratic manner in which England is governed instead.

    The English Question is the sore which will not go away no matter how much our politicians wish. Your party and the other two anti-English parties ignore England at their peril John because if they continue to deliberately ignore the rotten deal England gets from this so called ‘United Kingdom’ Catalonia won’t be the only ones demanding independence.

  26. Prigger
    October 9, 2017

    Illegality and legality are not terms which a democrat should discuss as equal valid parts to be weighed in the balance of an argument. This is a terrible error. It is also an error to write or speak of democracy when in fact you mean Representative Democracy . It is an error to conflate Representative Democracy with the Absolute Democracy of a “referendum” especially when the “referendum” in this case was no such thing. It was not constructed and performed in accordance with the nation’s law even if Catalonia was a nation-state: it did not conform to the norms of voting established internationally.
    JR sometimes, and it is extremely rare, your arguments are nothing of the kind, but ideas and concepts screwed up, thrown into a hat, and drawn out one by one or two by two without reference to their contexts, subjective or objective meanings. Your blog on this occasion is a complete load of Scottish Independence.

  27. Derek Henry
    October 9, 2017

    The Catalans should copy what Italy is doing and set up their own currency by proxy.

    Then they really would be independent.

  28. E.S Tablishment
    October 9, 2017

    “If enough people in a democracy say they no longer accept a given Parliament, backed by a police force and court system, as the originators and enforcers of their rule of law, the politicians do have to work out how they can design a new framework which does command respect”
    Most people in Yorkshire have fallen foul of the law civil and criminal. So, time for Parliament to get the hell out of our business and we can go about our business without being fined £100 for so much as dropping a cigarette organic filter measuring one centimeter long with a diameter of four mm before two plain clothed thugs employed by the local council chase after the arch end dropper whether he did it or not. Also dismantle all RAF Army bases and stop docking military ships on our East coast. They cause pollution and are responsible for many unwanted pregnancies.

  29. Jocelyne Perks
    October 9, 2017

    I think M. Portillo has summarized the situation:
    “Over the years the European Union has dreamt of a Europe of the regions seeking to weaken nation-states because they represented a competition to the central authority of the European Union, the Commission and so on. And I think we’re now reaping the whirlwind.”

    Michael Portillo

  30. Miss Brandreth-Jones
    October 9, 2017

    Many have commented that the problems between Catalonia and Spain seem to be overshadowing Brexit. The UK has a large interest in these areas due to holiday homes , regular travel to the sun with all the flights to and fro etc. It is of interest to us and the Germans in particular apart from the historical and legal factors.

  31. ian
    October 9, 2017

    The Spanish people were brided by the EU with 6 billion euros with the rest of the southern country in Europe to get 6 billion euro each vote to join the EU and euro currency, in 2008 the EU withdraw that money from southern Europe and southern Europe was tipped into a depression by the lose of the 6 billion euro in each country and banking crisis. The EU then waved the billions of euros in front of the six countries in eastern Europe to bride them to vote to join the EU, the EU and Germany have already upset the eastern European people with their migration policies, so when the money runs out so will the people in eastern Europe away from the EU and Germany. That’s why keeping the UK in the EU is so important or a big bill to be paid to leave the EU, because it;s just not the 10 or 12 billion pounds they lose, it’s also 100% tariff on sugar and the 30% tariff on food and other money that the UK people pay for being in the EU.

  32. James Matthews
    October 9, 2017

    Much as I want to leave the EU (and would happily do so tomorrow without an agreement if the Conservative Party could bring itself to a decision), I think drawing parallels between Catalonia and Brexit are misguided and dangerous, as is giving way to the temptation to use it as a stick with which to beat the EU.

    It may be true that if a majority of people no longer accept the law of a democratic state the state has to think again. However that does not seem to be the case here. The democratic state is Spain. A majority in Spain, including an indeterminate number in Catalonia, do accept the law. It is not to me self-evident that where a majority of people in one part of a democratic state flout the law that state should think again.

    If such a thing had happened in Scotland I doubt anyone would, as a matter of pragmatism, have tried to prevent Scotland’s departure. Few would want an unwilling partner and anyway Scotland costs the rest of us money. The principle though, is rather different. The surge in support for Scottish independence was underpinned by the belief that Scotland would be enriched by oil and could preserve most of the advantages of the Union with England through common membership of the EU (an obvious analogy with Catalonia there). Realpolitik may mean that states have to accept that sort of cynical and self-interested destruction of long-term relationships for short term gain, but they don’t have to pretend it is justifiable.

    So let me put another possibility for consideration. Suppose that in the not too distant future London, because of its demographic make up, its (real or imagined) financial strength, its Europhilia and its perceived cultural divergence from the rest of England, decides, by an apparent majority, that it will no longer obey England’s laws as determined by Westminster. Will you all think fine, its OK for any group and area to decide on its own demos, so we will have to accept that London is no longer part of England?

    I really hope not, because, while this scenario is not yet imminent, it is by no means unthinkable.

  33. PaulW
    October 9, 2017

    Isn’t it a bit rich how some think that the EU27 are the ones out of step with us.

    Well latest EU27 word is that they are not there just to save the Tory party

    Could be that the EU are holding tough until a Labour govetnment gets in

    1. Oggy
      October 9, 2017

      Next General Election is 2022 and we leave the EU in 2019.

  34. Rogm
    October 9, 2017

    It looks like Mrs May still wants her cake and eat it..however the Eu have been consistently clear about all of this that the exit talks have to have sufficient progress made before we move on to talk about the future. The EU are not listening to anything else so why waste time? Why not work to complete the exit talks and get on with it.

    The movement of people

    The irish border

    And the mechanism for working out the cost of money owing?

    What could be so hard?

    1. Oggy
      October 9, 2017

      Thank you for your comments Mr Barnier, I didn’t realise you read this blog.

  35. PaulDirac
    October 9, 2017

    Like you JR, I have no stake either way in this issue.
    The amount of force used by the Spanish police was brutal, used on peaceful citizens without any provocation. This was very probably a deliberate policy of “show of force” which is usually the hallmark of a dictatorship.

    The fact that the EU establishment is supporting this behaviour, is a scandal of huge proportions, the EU “democratic” institutions are supposedly the arbiters of civilised Europe, what a sad, sad day.

  36. Jason Wells
    October 9, 2017

    don’t understand what mrs may is on about- she talks about getting a new deal with our european colleagues, partners, friends etc blah blah| as if we are going to be able to operate in some kind of an equal partnership footing with them going forward! this is very far from the reality so let’s take some time out for a recount – very likely after march 2019 there will be no special deal with the EU- we will be a third country as far as they are concerned – even if we get some kind of new trade arrangement in place we will continue to be a third country- we will never ever be allowed to operate on an equal footing with them again- it would be impossible for EU political reasons, so we can forget about special relationships- it’s just not going to happen

  37. John
    October 9, 2017

    We in the UK have the rule of law, we abide by it unlike the EU Article 50 being an example.

    People like the leader of the Lib Dems want to abolish the rule of law and ignore the referendum and all the hard work that a certain activist did to make sure Brexit was enshrined in law.

    We abide by the law, that’s why we have so many international head offices here. It gives us the stability the leader of the Lib Debs wants but doesn’t support the rule of law like the SNP.

    We need to just carry on and stick to what has made us a success, let the crooks tie themselves up in knots by being crooks.

  38. Iain Moore
    October 9, 2017

    Sovereignty and Consent , with Mrs May today conceded that the ECJ will continue its remit over us for another two? three? who knows how many years during the transition, or do we now call it membership extension? We find the recovery of our sovereignty has been set aside, and she didn’t have our consent to do this.

    My pitch fork is sharpened , all I am waiting for is the call.

    1. Oggy
      October 9, 2017

      Hi Iain – the remainers keep telling us we won’t get any deal so we have nothing to worry about ! We leave March 2019.

  39. The Prangwizard
    October 9, 2017

    Have I tead correctly, that in the transition we are likely to have accept new rules and directives from the EU?

    I didn’t vote for this I voted for out in two years, knowing that was the system. That is what we were told.

    If it is true it is a traitorus betrayal of democracy and of the people’s will.

    We are entitled to take action, whether it be civil disobedience, other protest or the streets. This cannot be allowed.

  40. Billyg
    October 9, 2017

    It’s absolute nonsense to seem to threaten the EU that we are going to walk away. They are not stupid as DD and others will learn soon enough. Very likely the response to any such move will be, ok, goodbye and good riddance. As far as I can see it’s the EU that is looking for an excuse to walk away- money is not the decider in any of this.

    1. Oggy
      October 9, 2017

      The only thing that matters is we LEAVE, the conduit of how we do is irrelevant.

  41. jackH
    October 9, 2017

    Would someone please tell Liam Fox that we don’t have european partners now

  42. robert lewy
    October 9, 2017

    The narrative fits doesn’t it……..

    There is the EU so no more wars in Europe


    There are no more wars in Europe so who needs the nation state to protect you.

    If only…..

  43. Landlord
    October 9, 2017

    I wondered why there appeared to be only two members of the SNP in the House when Mrs May was delivering her speech 9th October 2017. Then I realised it was the first day of the Scottish Hogmanay drinking festival.

  44. A Briton
    October 10, 2017

    Billyg: “very likely the response to any such move will be, ok goodbye and good riddance” – if only they could and would – that would help us enormously so that we can move on into the real world where our future will be bright and free from foreign political intervention.

  45. Dioclese
    October 10, 2017

    This whole mess could have been avoided by Madrid allowing the referendum to take place and then ignoring the result if it went against them – which seems increasingly unlikely.

    I was interested to hear that the EU stated that an independent Catalonia would immediately be thrown out of the EU. Perhaps Ms Sturgeon should take note of that?

    Then again, the EU does seem to changes it’s policies on an hourly basis when it suits them

  46. adam
    October 10, 2017

    Why is the media so pro Catalan

    And why is the EU finally on the right side of some issue.

  47. anon
    October 10, 2017

    Staying in the EU post March 2019 would be parliament exercising its “power” to ignore the democratic vote of the public. This is just another aspect of poor governance which needs to be righted.

    Direct democracy and powers of recall are very much needed to remedy the current deficits.

    There is no consent for anything EU beyond March 2019.

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