The Latest: UK leader backs visiting Spain PM on Catalonia
MADRID (AP) — The Latest on the crisis in Catalonia (all times local):
British Prime Minister Theresa May has re-emphasized her backing for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s handling of the separatist crisis in Catalonia.
May said Tuesday while welcoming Rajoy to a Downing Street visit that she wants to reiterate her support for the approach the Spanish government is using to contain the separatist movement.
She says it is important that the rule of law be upheld and the Spanish constitution respected.
Rajoy thanked the prime minister for her statement of support.
A small group of supporters of Catalan independence held up signs backing a “Catalan Republic” outside the gates of Downing Street.
The lawyer for Carles Puigdemont says that the Catalan secessionist leader will remain in Belgium “for the moment” despite the Spanish authorities’ decision to withdraw his European arrest warrant.
Lawyer Paul Bekaert told VTM network that he assumed the court proceedings in Belgium against Puigdemont and four close allies would be ended now. It didn’t mean though that he would immediately return to Catalonia and campaign for the Dec. 21 regional election.
Bekaert said that “for the moment, he stays in Belgium,” pointing out there is was an active Spanish warrant against his client.
An official Spanish poll says that Catalan independence has dropped from second to fourth in the concerns of Spaniards more than a month after a controversial takeover of Catalan affairs by Spanish central authorities.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy used special constitutional powers to oust the separatist Catalan government, disband the regional parliament and call an election on Dec. 21 to choose new lawmakers and officials.
According to the government-run CIS survey, unemployment remains a top worry for 65 percent of those polled in November, followed by corruption and politics in general, with Catalan independence coming fourth and chosen by 25 percent of those surveyed.
The issue had become the second source of concern for Spaniards in the October survey following an illegal independence referendum marred by police violence.
CIS quizzed 2,482 Spaniards in interviews conducted between Nov. 1 and 15, with a margin of error of 2 percent.
A Spanish judge has withdrawn the European arrest warrants for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four members of his former cabinet who were fighting extradition from Belgium.
A Supreme Court spokesman said that the five could still be arrested if they go back to Spain, however. They are being sought for crimes related to the independence bid in northeastern Catalonia.
The spokesman requested not to be named in line with court rules.
Supreme Court magistrate Pablo Llarena said on Tuesday that individual European warrants don’t apply anymore because evidence has emerged that the alleged crimes were committed as part of a wider group.
He also said that the probed politicians have shown their “intention to return to Spain” in order to run for elections in Catalonia.