Tuesday 21 November 2017

Madrid will cut funds if Catalan poll goes ahead

Demonstrators shout and wave Catalan separatist flags as civil guards leave a printing facility after raiding it in search of ballot papers in Sant Feliu de Llobregat, outside Barcelona. Photo: Reuters
Demonstrators shout and wave Catalan separatist flags as civil guards leave a printing facility after raiding it in search of ballot papers in Sant Feliu de Llobregat, outside Barcelona. Photo: Reuters

Hannah Strange Barcelona

The Spanish government has dismissed Catalan leaders' offer of talks on their independence referendum as "a trap".

Madrid has said it will intervene in Catalonia's finances to ensure that no public money is used to fund what it says is an "illegal" vote.

Sixteen days away from the planned October 1 referendum, Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and other officials have released a letter appealing for an agreement on a vote and issuing "a new call to dialogue" without preconditions.

In the letter, addressed to Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy and King Felipe VI, the leaders said they were seeking talks "to listen to the voice of the citizens".

But the overture was rebuffed by the Spanish government, which claimed that Madrid had not even received the letter.

Its spokesman said the government thought it "a sarcasm" that Catalan leaders spoke of dialogue when "they have only put on the table a referendum yes or yes".

He also criticised Barcelona's mayor, Ada Colau, over her support for the vote and warned that she was "either with the law or against it".

Ministers also gave Mr Puigdemont an ultimatum -sign an agreement that public funds will not be diverted for the poll within 48 hours or the government will seize control of that part of the Catalan budget destined for services and salaries.

This, said finance minister Cristobal Montoro, was to ensure "not even one euro" will go to pay for "something illegal".

Irish Independent

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