Retreat in Catalonia

Spain and the EU managed to call the Catalan bluff:

Don’t let the cheers in the Catalan Parliament fool you. There’s been a full-blooded retreat from the separatists. After rowdy demonstrations, a covert referendum (which drew a violent response from Spanish police) and vows to set up a new republic, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont blinked.

Many lawmakers gathered for a special session of the regional legislature were hoping to hear a declaration of independence. Instead, he put the process on hold to make another appeal for talks with the Spanish government. No deadline. No leverage. And Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s response was powerful: he started the process that could see Puigdemont’s administration stripped of its powers.

Already last night cracks were opening up in the separatist coalition, suggesting a regional election may be necessary next year.

Perhaps Puigdemont had no real choice. The EU made it clear an independent Catalonia would be isolated. The region’s biggest companies were pulling out. And elite Spanish police officers were waiting to arrest him.

The reason the Catalan bid for independence is going to fail is that they don’t want actually want to be independent. They simply want to move up one rung on the EU totem pole. And that isn’t something that anyone in their right mind is going to fight or die for.

The Spanish misplayed this situation badly, but were ultimately saved by the fact that the Catalans were always ultimately hoping for the EU to swoop in and tell its member state that it had to let Catalonia go. Once the EU belatedly clear that it had no intention of doing so and called the Catalan bluff, the secessionists had no choice but to blink. Because they never, ever, intended to fight.