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Catalonia crisis to get WORSE for Spain as Puigdemont forced into Rajoy confrontation

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont faces pressure from Spain and his own government

There is pressure from both sides on president Carles Puigdemont to confirm Catalonia’s declaration of independence after he suspended the move for “a few weeks” in a speech on Tuesday.

However, this pressure risks pushing him into a confrontation with Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy – and it will be difficult to emerge as victor.

The pressure on Mr Puigdemont comes as a result of his speech before the Catalan parliament on Tuesday.

The Catalan leader said he would honour the will of the 90 per cent who voted in favour of independence, but suspended his declaration in the hope of concessions from the Spanish government.

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Following the speech, Mr Rajoy has pushed Mr Puigdemont to confirm whether the address should be taken as a declaration of independence.

Far-left separatists in the Catalan government have also pushed for clarification as they feel the speech did not go far enough.

The youth wing of the CUP, a radical left-wing party that props up the Catalan government, branded the address an “unacceptable betrayal”.

The party’s leader, Anna Gabriel, expressed fears he had “missed the opportunity”.

Pro-independence protesters in Barcelona.

Pro-independence protesters in Barcelona

Pro-independence protesters in Barcelona.

Pro-independence protesters in Barcelona

If Mr Puigdemont confirms he has declared independence, Madrid may invoke powers allowing Prime Minister Rajoy to take control of the region’s police force and dissolve the Catalan government.

After brutal crackdowns on polling stations by the Guardia Civil during the illegal referendum, Mr Puigdemont is likely to be wary of the consequences of a quick declaration.

Spain’s Minister of Defence María Dolores de Cospedal yesterday said the country’s armed forces would be prepared to defend their country inside and outside its borders.

She said: “The Armed Forces have defended the constitutional order, national sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country and are willing to do whatever is necessary to the orders of his Government, which is the constitutional government.”

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However, the mounting pressure on Catalonia’s leader could give him no option but to declare independence – pushing Spain and Catalonia into a confrontation that is unlikely to go well for the pro-independence politician.

Antonio Barroso, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence, told the Financial Times: “If Puigdemont publicly shies away from independence, the CUP might decide to pull the plug from the alliance that is keeping the pro-independence movement in power.

“On the other hand, if he remains ambiguous or says Catalonia is independent, Rajoy will use this to justify the next steps to be taken under Article 155 of the constitution… either way there could be new regional elections.”

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