Catalans don’t dance flamenco and they’ve banned bullfighting as cruel and barbaric. They are part of a distinct, proud nation with its own language, history, culture and flag, and that separate identity has survived Franco’s brutal attempts to suppress the Catalan language in the decades after the Civil War. Supporters of independence argue that their language and culture is not sufficiently respected by the Spanish central government, and they worry that, unless something is done, their culture will be absorbed.


We risk opening Pandora’s box if Catalonia becomes independent. Nationalists in Scotland, Flanders, Padania, Madeira, Bavaria, Scania and elsewhere are also all clamouring for independence (and that’s just in Western Europe!). Europe could end up split into a mosaic of squabbling, ever diminishing micro-states. At a time of profound crisis and mounting populist nationalism, the rush to breakaway could create dangerous potential for conflict.


Every year, Catalans are forced to contribute billions of their hard-earned taxes to the Spanish government’s coffers in Madrid (paying in about ten billion more than it gets back). Those demands have pushed Catalonia into debt and left a wealthy country struggling to provide basic services for its own people. The refusal of the Madrid government to grant Catalonia even basic fiscal autonomy enjoyed by the Basque Country shows that, according to this argument, only through independence will Barcelona be able to take control of its finances and its economic future. The split can be smooth and there is no reason why the Catalan Republic cannot remain in the European Union, euro-area and Schengen zone.


Catalonia receives billions from EU structural funds, and the regional government is in debt to the tune of €77 billion, creating the possibility of an independent Catalonia being forced to apply to the EU’s bail-out mechanism. If it is to thrive, Europe needs solidarity, not selfish economic nationalism.

If Catalonia refuses to support less-prosperous regions of Spain, why should the rest of Europe help Catalonia save its banks or finance its growing pension bill? Is now the right moment to add the costs of armed forces, diplomatic services and all the other trappings of independence to the tax bill? And on top of all that, Catalonia will have to cope with economic chaos and an exodus of spooked foreign investors while they wait to re-apply for membership of the European Union, the eurozone, and the EU’s Single Market (a process which Spain could very well veto).


Is this what justice looks like? Catalan leaders were handed sentences of between nine and 13 years in prison after being found guilty of sedition by Spanish courts. Video of alleged police brutality during the 2017 referendum drew international outcry, and recent scenes of street violence show that heavy-handed tactics are still being deployed.

It would be undemocratic not to let Catalans exercise their right to self-determination. The Catalan people have clearly rejected attempts by the government in Madrid to roll back the autonomy which Catalonia has gained since the death of Franco in 1975. Catalans do not want to live in a centralised Spanish state under a monarchy for whom they have little affection. The time has come for Catalans, Scots, Flemish and other peoples of Europe to choose the state they want to live in.


Catalans undeniably have their own distinct culture, but they also have much in common with the rest of Spain (perhaps more than they would care to admit!) – from late-night dining and a passion for football to a cool modern counter-culture. Barcelona benefits enormously from the cultural interplay with Madrid, and critics argue that isolated monoculturalism would dull its creative edge.

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStockPhoto – LondonAddict