Catalan government to blame for companies' exodus from region - Spanish finance minister


Hundreds of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators packed central Barcelona on Sunday to rally against plans by separatist leaders to declare Catalonia independent following a banned secession referendum.

Caixabank, Spain's number 3 bank, and Banco Sabadell, the number 5, have both moved their head offices out of Catalonia last week following an independence referendum that the Madrid government attempted to block.

"We have listened to many people".

Spain's neighbours in Europe however have refused to support the illegal referendum, with the European Union showing no interest in an independent Catalonia while France said on Monday it would not recognise a unilateral independence declaration.

Spain's national government made it easier for firms to relocate on Friday, passing a law that removes some of the red tape required to shift a company's legal home.

As Catalonia weighs unilaterally declaring independence from Spain, France is warning the region what it could lose if it walks away from negotiations.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, however, urged the government to refrain from invoking the never-before-used Article 155, which allows Madrid to take over autonomous regions.

The region of Catalonia, home to 7.5 million people in the northeast, is crucial to Spain, which is the EU's fifth-biggest economy and a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

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IG analyst Chris Beauchamp says a positive beginning of the week for the Spanish Ibex 35 index suggests investors are confident there will be a resolution to the crisis.

Monday meeting was suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court to pre-empt a hypothetical push for independence.

According to the Catalan government, 90 percent of participants voted for independence in the referendum on 1 October, with 2.3 million of Catalonia's 5.3 million registered voters casting a ballot. "It seems that the one who yells the most wins the argument".

Thomas says that the "powerful" show of support for unity means that a declaration of independence may not be well received.

"The turnout in Barcelona and across Spain to talk about Spain and unity and to express the voice of those who would not want this referendum to go ahead was also overwhelmingly powerful".

The Madrid government, grappling with Spain's biggest political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981, made it clear that it would respond immediately to any such unilateral declaration. Scenes of Spanish police beating unarmed voters in the October 1 referendum caused global shock.

"The ideal thing would be not to seek drastic solutions", he said in an interview published this weekend in El Pais newspaper.

But Rajoy assured Catalan leaders that there "is still time" to backtrack and avoid the imposition of direct rule.