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EL OF A MESS; APPEALS FOR CALM OVER 'SPANISH CIVIL WAR'; Catalonia declares independence; Angry Madrid imposes direct rule.

Byline: BEN GLAZE Deputy Political Editor

SPAIN was plunged into turmoil last night after Catalonia's parliament voted for independence and Madrid moved to impose direct rule.

Fears of violence erupting on the streets grew as the crisis deepened.

Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy tweeted "the rule of law will restore legality in Catalonia" - before sacking the region's President and Cabinet and calling snap December elections.

He said central government ministries would take over the Catalan administration and also moved towards taking control of the breakaway region's police forces by sacking its first in command.

"Spain is living through a sad day," Mr Rajoy said. "We believe it is urgent to listen to Catalan citizens, all of them, so they can decide their future and nobody can act outside the law on their behalf."

This was in response to Catalan MPs backing separation by 70 votes to 10, supporting this month's "illegal" independence referendum which led to heavy-handed police action at polls.

Minutes later, Mr Rajoy was granted authority by Spain's parliament to trigger Article 155 of the constitution, stripping Catalonia of its autonomy.

Appealing for calm, he said the unprecedented move was needed to return "law, democracy and stability".

Mr Rajoy added: "We are not prepared in any way to allow some people to liquidate our constitution."

DEFIANT

But the Catalan National Assembly called on civil servants to "peacefully resist" Spanish government orders.

World leaders, including Theresa May, insisted they would deal only with Madrid and experts said Catalonia had pressed the button on the "unthinkable".

But yesterday's historic decision - 26 days after the unauthorised poll - was backed with defiant words from sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

Calling on supporters to uphold "democratic principles", he added: "The representatives of the citizens have followed the people's mandate. Now we are facing times when we will need to keep calm and peaceful - always with dignity.

"This is in our hands, in your hands. Long live Catalonia."

Pro-independence MPs celebrated by singing the Catalan anthem as locals took to the streets, flying Catalan colours defiantly worn by FC Barcelona before a match earlier this month.

There have even been suggestions Catalan clubs, also including Girona and Espanyol, might join the Premier League after independence.

What But Theresa May said last night: "The UK does not and will not recognise the unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalan hap-regional parliament. It is based on a vote that was declared illegal by the Spanish courts. We continue to want the rule of law upheld, the Spanish constitution respected and Spanish unity preserved."

European Council President Donald Tusk also backed Madrid, as did the US State Department.

Catalonia had done "the unthinkable", said Birmingham University's George Kyris, who predicted more national leaders would back Madrid. He added: "It is unprecedented and is expected to have a huge impact. The world will stand with Madrid in fear of strengthening separatist movements elsewhere."

It bolstered Welsh nationalists, who yesterday praised the Catalans for "gaining their independence through peaceful, democratic means". Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood added: "Plaid Cymru will be calling for the National Assembly for Wales to recognise Catalan Republic."

Cat been pue Catalan resentment towards Spain has brewing for years. Natives feel they pump far more into the Spanish economy than they get back.

King's College London security lecturer Domitilla Sagramoso said: "We have to look carefully at what will happen in the next days and hope there is no violence."

ben.glaze@mirror.co.uk

VOICE OF THE MIRROR: PAGE 10

CAPTION(S):

Barca's Gerard Pique in colours DEFIANT

BALLOT Puigdemont votes yesterday

STAY, PRAY Spain's Rajoy wants unity

Police action during referendum

Celebrations in Barcelona last night POLL WIN
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Oct 28, 2017
Words:614
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