British expats in Catalonia fear outcome of independence referendum

Published:  10 Oct at 6 PM
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British expats living in the Spanish province of Catalonia are dismayed at the chaos and political tension following last week’s independence referendum.

British expats living and working in Barcelona and the rest of the province are shocked and unhappy over the botched referendum and its ensuing violent response, with many considering Madrid’s actions inevitable. Expat business owners are worried about the situation’s effect on commerce and tourism, and fear a possible backlash from the polling day violence between voters and the police.

One expat businessman told local media he felt Madrid had no choice but to attempt to foil the referendum as it was against Spanish law in the first place. He compared the poll itself with Britain’s 2016 Brexit referendum, saying it was fair, square and properly organised, whatever voters thought of the result. Over 850 Catalans were injured in fights with the police and military as they attempted to vote, with 10 police officers also hurt in the chaos.

Even although the vote itself was illegal by Spanish law and non-sanctioned by the state, many expats have been denouncing the extreme violence authorised by the Spanish government against its own citizens. Sebastian Marshall, an expat from Scotland, compared the situation to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, saying it was lawful and went off without any violence even though those in favour of a break with England lost. He considers the Catalans have done themselves and their cause no favours by pushing the issue in a manner unfair to the rest of Spain.

Another British expat, who asked to remain anonymous, described the outcome of the violence as a mess, adding the Spanish hadn’t behaved in this manner since the Franco era. Catalonia and especially the historic provincial capital of Barcelona are popular as destinations for British expatriates, with a number hoping for its independence as a solution to the risks of a hard Brexit.
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