Sunday, October 1

Sunday, October 1

D-DAY FOR SPAIN Catalonia defies Madrid, proceeds with controversial secession vote Catalonia’s regional government will attempt to hold a referendum

D-DAY FOR SPAIN

Catalonia defies Madrid, proceeds with controversial secession vote

Catalan independence vote

Photo: AFP

Catalonia’s regional government will attempt to hold a referendum on independence from Spain today in the biggest threat to Spanish stability since democracy was restored in 1978.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, supported by the Constitutional Court, has cracked down hard to stop the vote. He has the support of the EU which fears the break-up of other member countries if a precedent is set in Catalonia. Despite this, Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont remains defiant, saying the vote will still go ahead.

If the poll proceeds, yes campaigners are favoured to win. Despite polls slightly favouring the no vote, most no voters will boycott. A yes vote will see Puigdemont declare independence within 48 hours. Spain will then likely invoke Article 155, cancelling Catalonian autonomy and possibly arresting Puigdemont. If the answer is no, the matter will die down but Puigdemont’s separatists will continue to agitate for secession.

Regardless of the result, Spain’s tenuous unity has been shaken. Catalonia has set a precedent for other restive regions; especially the Basque region. Madrid may be forced to grant further autonomy to the regions.

A TOUGH CROWD

UK Conservatives hold annual conference

UK Conservative PM Theresa Maya at party conference

Photo: Alamy

Today Britain’s Conservatives head to Manchester Central for the fifth time since 2009 to start their four-day annual conference.

Scheduled to speak on Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May will deliver a speech entitled “Building a country that works for everyone”. Hot on her agenda will be addressing high energy prices surely involving a price cap which has had public support from a 120,000 signature petition.

Ongoing Brexit negotiations, however, are set to steal the show. May is expected to outline the deal thought to have been made with the EU regarding the £40 billion “divorce bill”, European residency rights, and transition arrangements. An unsatisfactory departure could lose the Tories the next election, who themselves remain divided over a soft of hard Brexit.

After the disastrous June election that lost her party’s House of Commons majority, May now faces an intra-party mutiny. 15 MPs have reportedly signed a letter of no confidence, and she is under pressure to resign after securing Brexit in 2019.

HONG KONG PROTESTS

Pro-democracy demonstrators return to the streets

Hong Kong press freedom march

Photo: EPA/Jerome Favre

Thousands of pro-democracy activists are set to mark China’s National Day today. They will do so by protesting in Hong Kong against Beijing’s crackdowns on civil liberties in recent months.

The protests come amid rising tensions since July’s celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the British handover of Hong Kong to China. In that time, Beijing has stamped its authority on the feisty Cantonese region. Pro-democracy activists have been jailed and an opposition lawmaker has been court-martialled for insulting the Chinese flag. An August 21 protest rallied against the jailing of pro-democracy activists; it was the largest demonstration since months-long 2014 protests shut down large parts of the city.

Today’s protests will be a litmus test as to whether Hong Kong will see a return to the mass rallies of 2014 or whether Beijing’s recent crackdowns have dampened enthusiasm.

Looking ahead, China will maintain the rights and liberties of Hong Kong residents under the “one country, two systems” settlement. However, crackdowns on any activists who upset Beijing are also likely to continue.