Speaking on Wednesday after an extraordinary cabinet meeting on the government’s appeal, Mr Rajoy attacked Catalan leaders who wish to “end democracy and the rule of law” by ignoring constitutional limits. “This is something we cannot allow. I will not allow it,” Spain’s conservative leader continued, stressing that the appeal was being presented to protect the rights of Spaniards to decide their destiny as a nation.
“Democracy is being undermined; everything is being undermined,” he said. “They are playing with feelings and rights of Spaniards and the love they feel for a country which some people want to destroy”.
Mr Rajoy also defended his refusal to bend on the Catalan issue during his four years as prime minister – a stance which has drawn considerable criticism. He said he had been right to refuse to negotiate a new financing deal for the region as it would have meant less distribution of money from the wealthy northeastern region to poorer parts of Spain, and that he had to stand up to the Catalan government’s defiance of existing laws, such as last year’s attempt to hold a referendum on independence.
But Pedro Sánchez, the leader if Spain’s main opposition Socialist Party, accused Mr Rajoy of contributing to the impasse through “inaction and immobility”.
Pablo Iglesias, leader of the Left-wing Podemos, said the government’s appeal was “cowardly” and promised a binding referendum in Catalonia if he became prime minister after Spain’s December 20 general elections.