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Spain PM due in Catalonia as separatist referendum looms

16 September 2017

The Catalan government's draft referendum bill stipulated that if a majority of Catalans vote for independence, Catalonia would secede within 48 hours of the result.

If the deadline is not met, the central government will take over the funding of most essential public services in the region, Mr Montoro said.

The Spanish government has maintained that the Catalan government's promise to hold an independence referendum is unconstitutional and illegal.

"These measures are to guarantee that not one euro will go toward financing illegal acts", Spain's Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro said following the weekly cabinet meeting. "That's what the spending control means and that will be in place as long as the exceptional situation continues", Montoro added.

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy has taken action through the courts to rule the referendum illegal and promised to use the Civil Guard to attempt to seize the ballot boxes as well as raid the offices of a printers in Tarragona who were believed to be printing ballot papers.

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He said the arrangement implied "political control that is not related to the objectives of budget stability or to the purposes of state legislation in this matter".

President of the Catalan Government Carles Puigdemont (R) signs a decree calling independence referendum past Catalan regional vice-president and chief of Economy and Finance and leader of the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) leftist Republican Party Oriol Junqueras at the Catalan Parliament in Barcelona, on September 6, 2017.

"Right now, we have no idea where they are", he said.

Police have been directed to arrest the mayors should they fail to answer the summons, according to the official letter sent to local authorities.

"We call for. open and unconditional dialogue".

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King Felipe was widely quoted as praising Spain's democracy and social harmony at an awards ceremony on Wednesday, saying "the constitution will prevail over any rupture in that".

On Thursday, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that in the event Catalonia gains independence, it would not be able to become an EU member state immediately after the referendum and would have to follow the same accession process to be admitted to the European Union as those countries that had entered the bloc since 2004.

The letter accused the Spanish state of "an unprecedented repression offensive".

Two new laws passed by the Catalan assembly paving the way for the vote have been suspended while state judges consider whether holding it would breach Spain's constitution, which says the country is indivisible.

Although polls show less than half of Catalonia's 5.5 million voters want self-rule, most in the wealthy northeastern region want the chance to vote on the issue, causing unease that is beginning to be felt in financial markets.

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Spain PM due in Catalonia as separatist referendum looms