Catalonia Referendum

The brutality of the Spanish police in Catalonia is unacceptable. Although this was an illegally organised referendum, the central government could have simply ignored it. No other country is likely to recognise Catalonia as an independent state simply on this basis, so there was no need for the central Spanish government to be so heavy-handed.

Labour’s shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornbury MP issued following statement:

Police violence in Catalonia today is shocking, and the Spanish government should take action now to end it.While we believe disputes over sovereignty should be resolved in accordance with rules and laws, and any referendum on these issues needs to be both democratic and fair, it is unacceptable for the Spanish authorities to overreact to today’s events through aggressive police action and the forcible closure of polling stations.

They must respect the right to peaceful protest, and all sides must strive to come together and reach a political solution to this constitutional crisis. Violence of any sort will simply worsen divisions, and make a resolution harder to reach.”

The European Parliament debated the matter on Wednesday 4th October. Most speakers took a similar line, both critical of the Catalan government for not following legal procedures in organising the referendum and of the disproportionate response by the Spanish government.

The European Commission underlined the need to “protects the weak from the powerful” and said that “the only way forward is dialogue”, which should start “immediately”.

Cynically, UKIP has taken the line that the EU should somehow intervene in Spain. They who normally accuse the EU of being too interfering in the affairs of its member states are now pleading for it to do precisely that, and presumably to increase the powers of the EU to enable it to do so.

At present the EU is in a protracted process of dialogue with the Polish and Hungarian governments about laws that appear to put in question basic principles of the rule of law. Member States (reluctantly) accept that the European Commission has a right to raise questions about such national legislation. They haven’t given it powers to intervene on individual policing operations, and would be reluctant to do so. But they can’t stop debates in the European Parliament and the platform it offers to parties across the political spectrum and from all member countries to raise issues and to criticise governments.