More than 150 people attended the first debate organized by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Catalonia, created last March in the British Parliament. Under the title ‘A Democratic Solution for Catalonia’ SNP MP George Kerevan, who is one of the main promoters of the APPG, Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams, the Daily Mirror’s Political editor, Jason Beattie, and former Consul for Great Britain in Barcelona, Geoff Cowling, among others, discussed both Catalonia’s pro-independence roadmap and the ways to overcome the current deadlock. “There is only one democratic solution and it is to let the people vote,” said Kerevan and warned that stopping them “is not the European way”. He also criticized the Spanish Government’s decision to ban democratically-elected Catalan political representatives from public office. Cowley pointed at the Spanish Constitution, which he defined as “very rigid” as the main hurdle for Catalonia to hold a referendum. “Sometimes, facing up to the political realities of the day is more important than adhering to past legislation,” he said.
The APPG on Catalonia brings together more than 20 MPs and Peers representing the whole political spectrum in the British Parliament. This Wednesday’s debate was its first event and was organized together with ANC England, the British branch of the pro-independence association, Catalan National Assembly. Indeed,Catalan National Assembly International Committee Chair, Montse Daban, was also among the speakers. She emphasized how broad the pro-independence movement is in Catalonia, reaching beyond political parties and embracing different social sensibilities.
“Catalonia, as a nation, must have the right to decide its political future,” said Cowley and used the Scottish referendum as an example. However, he pointed out that the United Kingdom doesn’t have a written constitution and although there is legislation, “it can be democratically changed” to respond to the political reality. “I don’t see this happening within Spain because there is a written constitution which is very rigid,” he lamented. “There can’t be a democratic solution if the Spanish Constitution refuses to allow it,” he added.
Former Catalan government official and Lecturer in Sociolinguistics professor Michael Strubell, explained Catalonia’s long desire for independence and underscored the repeated calls for dialogue and for a referendum negotiated with Spain.
“I’m a Scottish MP, it is not for me to tell the people in Catalonia what to vote. But they should be allowed to vote,” said SNP MP George Kerevan and added that “to stop them is not the European way”. In this vein, he warned the Spanish Government that “stepping away” from dialogue using the court to solve political problems “is dangerous”. Kerevan also referred to the prosecution of Parliament’s President, Carme Forcadell, for allowing a debate on independence in the Parliament and the decision to remove Catalan MP, Francesc Homs, from the Spanish Congress for allowing a symbolic vote on independence in 2014. “That’s not democracy; we don’t solve differences of opinion by introducing the law” he lamented. He called on Madrid “to think really carefully” and “to let people decide rather than banning MPs”.
“We look towards Catalonia with huge interest and we find its case really inspiring,” said Plaid Cymru MP, Hywel Williams. He referred to Catalonia’s defense of its language and expressed his wish to achieve similar standards in Wales. Williams also referred to Catalonia’s right to decide its political future. “I believe in the democratic right for self-determination. If people collectively decide to go in a certain political direction it is up to them.” Williams criticized other states for restricting the conditions of the negotiations or limiting which political leaders could speak.
EU Correspondent for the CNA, Laura Pous, was also amongst the pannellists. She said that Brussels is not likely to intervene in the current deadlock between Catalonia and Spain. However, she insisted on the need for Catalonia to hold a real binding referendum rather than a symbolic vote in order to gain international attention and recognition.
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