Catalan leader under pressure to drop independence

The French government on Monday said it will not recognise Catalonia if it declares independence from Spain and such a move will mean expulsion from the European Union.

On the eve of Sunday's rally, Rajoy refused to rule out suspending Catalonia's regional autonomy - a move that risks further unrest.

Leaders in Catalonia are facing increasing domestic and worldwide pressure to abandon plans to declare independence from Spain, ahead of a planned speech by Catalonia's regional president.

Benet Salellas of the separatist Catalan CUP party said: 'It's very clear to me that those who I represent won't accept any other scenario'.

Carles Puigdemont is due to address lawmakers in Barcelona on Tuesday evening in what separatists hope will be a unilateral proclamation of independence, a plan that has raised concerns for stability in the European Union.

"The exit of many companies from Catalonia is the outcome of the irrational and radical policies implemented and pursued by the (regional) government", minister Luis de Guindos said as he arrived for a meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Luxembourg.

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.

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.

They waved Spanish and Catalan flags and carried banners saying "Together we are stronger" and "Catalonia is Spain".

Some 90% of Catalans who voted in a disputed referendum on Oct.1 backed independence.

"This situation can not be solved by violence, we have to find a solution through dialogue, this is also true when you consider the economic oint of view", he said.

Despite the outrage, Rajoy and Spanish King Felipe VI defended the police and doubled down on their stance to take whatever measures necessary to keep Catalonia from seceding.

Catalonia accounts for almost a fifth of Spain's economy, and leads all regions in producing 25% of the country's exports, CNNMoney reports.

Puigdemont rescheduled a session of the Catalan Parliament for Tuesday after Spain's Constitutional Court suspended Monday's session.

Puigdemont hinted in an interview on Sunday that the region would go ahead with the declaration if Madrid continued to refuse dialogue.

Mr Rajoy told Catalan leaders that there is still time to backtrack and avoid Madrid taking over the region's government. Police cracked down on the vote, firing rubber bullets and storming crowds to disrupt the voting, leading to hundreds of injuries.

  • Rogelio Becker