- Albert Gea/Reuters
- Catalonian lawmakers vote to hold an independence referendum on October 1. They face fierce opposition from the Spanish government. Bank warns the split could have worse economic consequences than Brexit.
Catalonian lawmakers have officially agreed to hold an independence referendum that could separate the region, which includes Barcelona, from the rest of Spain.
A bill approving the referendum passed with 72 votes in favour and 11 abstentions in the Catalonian parliament in Barcelona, the region’s capital, on Wednesday night, the BBC reported.
It came after a heated, 11-hour-long debate in which 52 opposition deputies walked out of the chamber and did not cast a vote, the Guardian said.
Almost immediately after the vote, Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont signed into local law a bill to call the referendum on October 1, 2017, according to the BBC.
Catalonia is a 32,000-square-kilometre area that is home to 7.5 million people, who speak a different language – Catalan. Many of them have long wished to break away from Spain to preserve their cultural identity.
A recent poll found 41% of Catalonians were in favour independence. Some 49.4% were against it, according to the survey conducted in June by Catalonia’s Centre for Opinion Studies.
The poll took place before the Barcelona and Cambrils terror attacks, which killed 14 and injured dozens more.
- Albert Gea/Reuters
But there is fierce opposition from the Spanish government.
The Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, has asked the country’s constitutional court to invalidate the referendum bill, the BBC said. He will hold an emergency cabinet meeting and meet other party leaders on Thursday to discuss next steps.
“I don’t want it, I don’t believe in it, and as long as I am prime minister, it won’t happen,” Rajoy said about an independence bill in May, according to Agence France-Presse.
And commenting on the Catalonian lawmakers’ vote on Wednesday, Bloomberg quoted Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria as saying: “We’ve seen democracy take a kicking.”
- Google Maps
State prosecutors also plan to seek criminal charges against lawmakers who helped advance the motion. Prosecutors will argue that they are disobeying a 2014 court order that sought to ban them from holding a vote, the Guardian said.
That order followed a similar, non-binding independence vote that took place that year, in which more than 80% of voters chose independence – although only 2.3 million out of the region’s 6.3 million eligible voters took part, AFP noted.
Dutch bank ING warned last week that a Catalonian split from Spain could trigger worse economic consequences than Brexit did. It said that the economic uncertainty that would follow a “Catalexit” would negatively impact private consumption and business investment, and “if worries turn into a panic then there could also be a run on the banks and capital controls.”