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What Catalan secessionists do not understand about Brexit

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

Originally published in Spanish: “Lo que los independentistas catalanes no entienden del Brexit”Marta García Aller. El Independiente. 10/02/2019 Updated 11/02/19 – 00: 03

Catalan secessionists do not understand, or they do not want to understand, what the purpose of a referendum is. The best evidence of this is that they always propose as an example those whose results had been negative, those that changed nothing. That is why they always bring the Scotland’s referendum when the most similar to a vote to separate Catalonia from [‘the rest of’] Spain would be, in a best-case scenario, the Brexit’s one. Both the intentionally emotional misinformation that lead to a Yes vote and the chaos that followed the victory lacking a roadmap.

Catalan Parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, is taking the opportunity of the start of the trial about the procés (1) to appear on different TVs with the reborn mantra volem votar [‘we want to vote’], campaigning, as well, as an Esquerra leader (2). It is therefore a good moment to remind what happens with referendums in the days of fake news. That point, ‘this is not about independence’, you surely remember it, and ‘this is about democracy’. That people must be allowed to vote if they want to remain in Spain or not. That people are sovereign to decide where their country begins and where it ends (the Catalan country, of course, as this seems not to apply to the Spanish one).

Torrent says that he is not a secessionist; that he only wants the independence of Catalonia so they can recover the institutions. That he only wants to live in peace. And that there is nothing personal here, nothing against anyone, but that they will be better alone. Who used to say that? The campaign promoting Brexit (‘Let’s take back control’). That was the call that convinced a majority of British citizens to vote in favour of independence from the European Union. Then, when the Yes won, far from solving anything, problems started to develop.

This is not about democracy. Of course. This is about irresponsible politicians who propose people to vote between a black and white yes or not, in or out, as the maximum simplification of a complex problem, without a previous explanation of what they are actually voting for, nor which will be the plan to achieve all those magical solutions promised in case the proposal wins.

British are not famous precisely for leaving it for the last minute. That is why it is even more shameful the evidence that actually no one thinks a referendum in order to propose a feasible plan to deliver the promised. Does this remind you about anything?

We will find no better image than Brexit to give a reality check to that magical referendum that secessionists are claiming again as the allegedly negotiated solution for Catalonia. At least, the British one was legal, although not for that reason less stupid in political terms.

Not even when the vote is legitimate, not even when there are more than two years to negotiate the exit of a territory, not even in that case it is possible to guarantee that all the parties are not to lose. In addition, in the British case the terms at stake are only economic and social, barely emotional.

Many of those that voted Brexit cannot understand why some banks are leaving the City or why some factories as British as Jaguar or Land Rover are closing… But, didn’t they vote for taking back control? Brussels must be to blame, obviously. Neither the secessionists understood that, after the uncertainty created by the referendum held on October 1st, La Caix (one of the main banks) moved their headquarters to Valencia and Codorníu (main ‘cava’ producer) to La Rioja. Madrid must be to blame, obviously.

Let us hope that we do not have the chance to check how much a hard Brexit, that is, an exit without an agreement with the EU, can impoverish a country and create chaos while the legal uncertainty lasts. It would be situation most similar to a unilateral declaration of independence (DUI) that the secessionists would see.

Thanks to the Brexit there will be no need to imagine a Catalonia out of Spain to explain those risks. It will be enough to remind that it would be out of the EU, where repeatedly the European institutions have explained that a hypothetical Catalan Republic would legally belong.

I hope that we will not see where the chaos created by a hard Brexit could reach, as we did not see how a DUI ends. It is enough to assess the British politicians’ ineptitude and the lack of action from the EU to figure out that the worst case, the one that does not benefit any of the parties, happens sometimes if no one tries hard enough to avoid it.

Finally, let us hope that we will not see thousands of trucks queuing at the Calais border, being unable to cross the English Channel, or the British supermarkets undersupplied because the politicians in charge of leading the Brexit had not been able to manage their own responsibility. Hopefully we will not see a hard Brexit. But remember, if that ever happens, that everything started with a referendum.

1 Procés: Catalan for ‘process’; in this context, the process to independence (TN).

2 Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya: “Republican Left of Catalonia”. One of the secessionist parties leading the procés.

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