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Brexit and the Catalan ‘process’

Neither one is inevitable, as illustrated by the cases of Italy’s Padania and the Basque Country

Xavier Vidal-Folch
UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May.EFE

The similarities between Brexit and the Catalan independence push known in Catalan as “el procés” have become widely acknowledged.

The parallels have even made an appearance at the usually prudent BritishSpanishSociety panel discussions, a cross-disciplinary forum whose 29th edition ended yesterday in Bath. Here are some of the parallels that were drawn between both:

1. Both Brexit and the Catalan procés have polarized their respective societies, which are now aggressively split in two.

2. Both executives (one led by UK Prime Minister Theresa May and the other by former Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont) have deteriorated the democratic principle according to which the nation’s government represents everybody and governs for everyone, your own rivals included. In Catalonia, non-secessionists counted for nothing, while in Britain, the official debate only took place between radical and ultra-radical Brexiteers.

3. This in turn undermines the rule of law. The Catalan breakaway laws demolished this notion of representing and ruling for everyone, while May’s (failed) attempt at wresting Article 50 from the House of Commons tried to do the same.

4. Parliament and the separation of powers are the ultimate victims. In Britain, they are being denied the freedom of an open vote (or amendment) on the final deal (or lack thereof) with the EU. In Catalonia, minorities (which nevertheless represent a majority of the popular vote) were condemned to oblivion.

5. In both cases, nationalist passion (anti-European in Britain, anti-Spanish in Catalonia) is becoming mixed with the kind of populism that promises simple solutions to complex problems.

6. Both are avoiding their responsibilities and redirecting them towards an outside enemy (Brussels, Madrid).

7. Both are avoiding economic accountability and their own commitments: long-term European program and pension payments; assaults on economic and business stability.

8. Both are turning their backs on 40 years of history (EU membership in one case, co-leadership of Spain’s democracy in the other), even though these roles have done the most to forge their (plural) identities.

9. May and Puigdemont are concealing data. She is withholding reports on the economic effects of separating from Europe. Puigdemont concealed his breakaway laws until the last minute.

10. It is claimed that both processes are irreversible. But it wasn’t in the Basque Country, nor was Padania’s secession drive in 1996 final; nor was the centuries-old enmity between France and Germany a done deal.

Only death is final (so it seems).

English version by Susana Urra.

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