Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has compared the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union with the Catalan independence movement.
The Spanish leader sees parallels between the rhetoric of the Brexit campaign and arguments heard in Catalonia during the campaign ahead of the unauthorized independence referendum of October 1, 2017.
Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez
“They say either ‘Europe is stealing from us’ or ‘Spain is stealing from us,’ and ‘if only we had more economic resources... Ultimately, engaging in projects based on lies leads societies down a blind alley, and that’s really difficult to manage,” said Sánchez in a joint interview with the European media outlets The Guardian, La Repubblica, Le Monde and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
The head of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) said that “the techniques of the Catalan independence movement are very similar to those of [former UKIP leader Nigel] Farage and other ultra-conservative leaders who have defended Brexit.”
He added that the Brexit referendum should not have been framed as a binary yes/no issue. He said that perhaps the right question would have been: “Do you want to stay in a better Europe? Because it’s true there are many things that need to change in Europe.”
Sánchez listed some of the lessons to be learned from Brexit. For instance, how an internal debate within one political party can become “a global problem.”
He also expressed surprise at the generation gap on display at anti-Brexit protests: “Young people are in favor of remaining in Europe, and they are the future of the UK.”
As for Spain-UK relations, Sánchez described his relationship with British PM Theresa May as “very close” despite differences over Gibraltar. Both leaders have been working to preserve the rights of Britons living in Spain and Spaniards living in the UK following Brexit.
The Spanish leader, who is facing a snap general election on April 28 as well as local and regional polls on May 26, also had thoughts on the state of Spanish politics, particularly on the rise of the far-right Vox and its effect on the right-of-center Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos (Citizens).
“Unlike other liberal parties in Europe that refuse to negotiate with the far right, Ciudadanos has reached a deal with the far right,” he said, alluding to Vox’s critical support for a center-right governing coalition in the southern region of Andalusia. Sánchez said he is concerned at the way that “Vox is radicalizing the rhetoric of the PP and Ciudadanos.”