On October 1, Catalans head to the polls to vote yes or no on separation from Spain.

The Spanish government and constitutional court claim the referendum is illegal but 700 Catalonia mayors say the vote will take place.

Today Madrid launched a major fearmongering campaign: Catalonia Faces ‘Brutal’ Impoverishment If It Leave, Spain Warns.

“The general impoverishment of the society would be brutal. GDP could fall between 25 and 30 percent and unemployment double,” Economy Minister Luis De Guindos said in an interview with radio Cope.

An independent Catalonia would find itself outside of the eurozone so 75 percent of its products would be slapped with tarifs, banks would have to relocate, and the region would have to set up its own currency, he added.

“The independence of Catalonia would be absolutely irrational from an economic point of view,” the minister said.

Divided Catalonia

The Guardian reports Catalonia divided as controversial poll on independence sparks conflict with Madrid

In two weeks, Catalans will go to the polls to vote in a referendum on whether to secede from Spain and form an independent republic. Or will they?

If the Catalan government’s strategy has been to provoke a reaction from Madrid, it has succeeded. While refusing to discuss the issue, the Spanish government has lashed out with a series of threats, including taking control of Catalonia’s finances by 18 September and abolishing its regional autonomy. It has threatened to bar Catalan leaders from holding office and even warned them that they could face jail. The attorney general has also said that any mayor who allows local authority buildings to be used as polling stations could face prosecution.

Last Wednesday the Civil Guard shut the official referendum website, but within 24 hours Puigdemont had published a new link to the site on his Twitter account. WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange says he has been helping to defend the website.

Critics of the referendum, including Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, say it lacks the necessary guarantees and has set no minimum level of participation. However, she has reached an agreement with Puigdemont to facilitate the vote in the capital.

n a last-ditch effort to break the deadlock, Colau and Puigdemont have sent a joint letter to the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, and the king pleading for dialogue and a legally binding referendum. In the letter, they appeal for an “open and unconditional dialogue”. Rajoy insists that he is open to dialogue on any topic – except a referendum on independence.

The Yes camp has successfully created an image of consensus around independence – witness the million people they mobilized on the streets of Barcelona last week for Catalonia’s national day – but these impressive shows of popular power mask the fact that there is still only a minority in favor of secession. A survey at the end of July found that 49.4% of Catalans were against independence and 41.1% supported it.

When a similar referendum was held in November 2014, 80% voted Yes. However, the turnout of barely 37% suggested that No voters had boycotted the poll. There are fears this will be repeated on 1 October, but the Catalan government seems bent on a declaration of independence, however small the margin in favor.

Polls Accurate?

I cannot find a recent voter poll. The Guardian and other sites keep referring to polls taken about two months ago. Those polls are now useless.

By declaring the vote illegal and threatening Catalonia, prime minister Rajoy may have strengthened the yes vote. Ballot seizures and police actions may have the same effect.

Finally, many in the “no” camp may not turn out to vote because it was declared illegal.

Reflections on Fearmongering

The fearmongering campaign is ridiculous for several reasons.

  1. The Government said the vote will not take place. The fearmongering implies it will.
  2. Not only does the fearmongering campaign imply a vote, but the wordage admits that Catalonia could indeed break away.
  3. Who’s fooling whom?

Catalonia sends far more money to Spain than it gets back.

Thus, Spain is as likely, if not more likely to face an instant recession if and when Catalonia stops sending money to Madrid following a “yes” vote.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock