Catalonia is worse than Brexit…and more contagious

10/05/2017 11:06 am ET Updated Oct 05, 2017

Lessons from Brexit

The attempts by the Catalonia region to dissociate itself from Spain has many of the traits of Brexit: quest from “being master of one’s destiny” to “we will be better without Spain”. Like Brexit, those statements contain a set of absurdities. Brexit was voted based on misinformation brought by Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. Ignorance or sheer manipulation does not change the fact that the populations have been misled. Brexit was based on what has proved to be wrong assumptions, sky rocketing costs and insane complexity.

One should not expect separatists to ever take lessons from the past. They are in it for themselves, and their own political power and egos. If and when the Catalans wake up from their vote on “independence” this Tuesday -assuming it happens-, they will be as groggy as the Brits were after the Brexit vote.

Separation of a region is a completely different ball game…for the worse

While Britain had its own currency, central bank, borders and nationality, the Catalans might be surprised once they realize what will happen. Let’s look at what we know

  • The Catalans will be surprised once they realize what they voted for. Let’s look at what we know:
  • · Catalans will lose their Spanish nationality
  • · Catalonia will not be part of the European Union
  • · There will be a need for a Catalan currency to be created and printed
  • · The financing of the Catalan budget will probably be below investment grade, exploding interest rate charges
  • · Catalans will not have access to the European countries without visa
  • · Catalan companies are likely to want to move their incorporation and headquarter outside of Catalonia
  • · Catalonia will have to take their part of the burden of Spanish sovereign debt service

These facts alone have never been spelled out by those who try to drag Catalonia into what increasingly looks like a lose-lose adventure.

The Kingdom of Spain must reform itself

King Felipe VI and Mariano Rajoy’s declarations were right on the substance, but offered no understanding of the emotions that drive Catalonia into their own demise. The same applied to the conservative party in Britain or the Democrats in the United States. Regionalism is a form of nationalistic populism. It needs to be treated with a better understanding of the underlying currents that explain this eruption. The Government failed.

Whether it was in Ukraine, in Belgium or in other countries, a form of federalism is essential if politicians want to debunk the feeling that decisions are made in Kiev, Brussels or Madrid. It is a long and complex process, but engaging into a genuinely candid dialogue debunks explosions that show both sides at war as the events in Barcelona showed last week end.

Spain and Catalonia have much more in common than it is recognized, but they also have their own history, language and culture. They cannot be ignored. Barcelona and Madrid are two very different cities for those of us who visited both.

The next days will show an escalation of a conflict that should never have reached that paroxysm. Let’s be honest on both sides. There are no victims here. Political opposition is mutual. Europe should not be involved except to confirm that it will not recognize Catalonia as a new member state and that it is an internal matter for Spain, which is exactly what the European Commission did.

Is it too late for reasonable negotiations? It would be a disaster for the Catalans, Spain and Europe. Aren’t Spain and Catalonia a Sagrada Familia?

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