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Security is tight in a tense Barcelona – with just hours to go until Catalonia possibly declares independence from Spain. Police are guarding public buildings and have closed off a park surrounding the regional parliament – amid concerns that an attempt to break away from Madrid could be met with a harsh response from Spanish authorities. Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has not revealed the precise message he will deliver at 6pm local time (5pm UK time), but separatist politicians have said they expect a declaration based on the results of the disputed independence referendum on 1 October. Ahead of the announcement, Barcelona’s mayor said the Catalan referendum is not enough for the region to declare independence from Spain.
Image: Catalan President Carles Puigdemont presides over a cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning
Ada Colau said the results of the vote “can’t be a guarantee to proclaim independence but are the opportunity to build dialogue and international mediation”. She appealed to Spain’s prime minister and Catalonia’s political leader to “decrease tension on both sides”, adding that “now is the time to build bridges”. Ms Colau also urged Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to pull out the extra police that have been drafted in to the northeast region as a “gesture of state responsibility”.
Image: Highway management company Abertis is the latest firm to pull out of Catalonia
As many in Spain await what would be a major escalation in the constitutional crisis, more firms have said they are pulling out of the region. Highway management company Abertis and telecoms company Cellnex have joined a growing list of companies moving their headquarters elsewhere. Both are part of Spain’s Ibex 35 index of top listed companies. Abertis and Cellnex said they were pulling out for as long as there is uncertainty about the region’s future.
Image: People have marched for Spanish unity in recent days Image: Hundreds of thousands turned out in Barcelona
They join a slew of companies that are moving, including property group Inmobiliaria Colonial, Banco Sabadell, CaixaBank and energy firm Gas Natural. Publishing house Grupo Planeta also warned it will move to Madrid if independence is declared. Spain’s deputy prime minister earlier warned of a tough response if Catalonia’s political leader, Carlos Puigdemont, decides to announce a split from Spain. Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told COPE radio that “if they declare independence, there will be decisions to restore the law and democracy”. He added: “I’m calling on the sensible people in the Catalan government.. .
don’t jump off the edge because you’ll take the people with you.” The crisis in the region follows an illegal referendum that was condemned by many because of the heavy-handed approach by police. Around 900 people were reportedly hurt when officers seized ballot boxes, fired rubber bullets and forcibly dragged people out of polling stations. Catalonia’s leaders said 90% of the 43% who turned out voted ‘yes’. However, hundreds of thousands of people have turned out for anti-independence rallies, including in Catalonia’s capital, Barcelona1, since the vote. The region’s referendum law states that a declaration would start a six-month process of divorce talks with Spain and regional elections.
- Image: Barcelona may be the capital of the Catalan region but thousands gathered there on Sunday in support of unity
- Image: Organisers claimed a million people joined the march . Swipe through for more pictures
Mr Puigdemont appeared steadfast on Sunday, saying a ‘yes’ vote necessitated an independence declaration.
“We will apply what the law says,” he told TV3. Mr Rajoy has not ruled out the “nuclear option” of removing the Catalan government and calling fresh regional elections. Pedro Sanchez, leader of Spain’s main opposition party, is also backing the government’s response if an independence declaration is made. Mr Sanchez said “a unilateral declaration of independence doesn’t have a place in a state ruled by law”. He told reporters in Barcelona: “The same way that we are offering our hand for a dialogue, we will also support the state’s response if coexistence among Spaniards is broken unilaterally”.
Police are to work with the Conservatives to review their conference security after a well-known comedian was able to hand the Prime Minister a mock P45 unemployment notice. Interrupting Theresa May’s keynote speech to Tory members in Manchester1, Lee Nelson – real name Simon Brodkin – approached the podium to hand the Prime Minister the fake document before being led away. Conservative MPs voiced their concerns over the prank, as party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin and Home Secretary Amber Rudd promised a full inquiry. “There should be some very serious questions – that could have been a terrorist,” said Tory MP George Freeman, the head of the Prime Minister’s policy board. A Conservative spokesman said: “In light of the arrest during the Prime Minister’s speech we are working with the police to review the accreditation process and security arrangements for party conference.”
Mr Brodkin, who has a history of interrupting high-profile events, was arrested “to prevent a breach of the peace” after being escorted out of the conference hall, but was later released. He was revealed to have had legitimate accreditation for the Conservative conference, believed to be a two-day delegate pass costing around 700. Greater Manchester Police chief superintendent John O’Hare said: “The man had legitimate accreditation which granted him access to the conference site.
“In light of this we will be reviewing the accreditation process with the Conservative Party. “Even with accreditation, everyone at the conference goes through airport-style searches before being allowed entry to the site.”
Security firm G4S defended themselves, using their Twitter account to reveal they were not the security provider for inside the auditorium but only the conference perimeter, entrances and exits. Mr Brodkin was given a conditional caution in March 2013 after warming up alongside Premier League footballers ahead of a Manchester City game at Everton. He was also arrested, but later released, when he threw money at world football boss Sepp Blatter in July 2015. A month earlier, Mr Brodkin stormed the stage during Kanye West’s set at Glastonbury festival.
- ^ Theresa May’s keynote speech to Tory members in Manchester (news.sky.com)
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