THE decision by Carles Puigdemont to ask for talks with Spain regarding Catalonia’s future is a masterstroke. It has completely wrong-footed both [Spain prime minister] Mariano Rajoy and the EU. Rajoy was hoping Catalonia would declare independence, then Rajoy would have deployed a massive crackdown on the Catalan government and its institutions.

Outside Catalonia there is limited knowledge of what happened there during the 1936-1939 Civil War and the repression under Franco’s dictatorship. Franco was backed by the banks, landowners and the Catholic Church. These are the institutions now opposing independence. Today’s events are directly linked to the Franco period.

Thousands of the people who were tortured or sent to the camps were Catalans. During the years of Franco’s dictatorship, Catalonia was one of Spain’s strongholds of resistance, and the Catalan people suffered enormously for it. Following a military trial in 1940 that lasted less than an hour, Lluís Companys, the president of Catalonia’s Generalitat, was tortured and then executed by the Guardia Civil. Companys is a symbol for what the Catalans endured during and after the Civil War. Many were murdered, disappeared, imprisoned, sent to concentration camps, had their children taken or were economically disenfranchised during this period. Catalan people were also banned from speaking their language and saw other aspects of their culture suppressed by the fascist regime. Teaching and speaking the language became legal only after Spain’s restoration to a democracy in 1978.

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No clear-out of Francoist officials occurred after Franco’s death. Manuel Fraga Iribarne, who founded the Popular Party of Rajoy, was a minster in Franco’s government. This in turn influences the decisions of the Spanish government on Catalonia today.

Under Franco between 1936 and 1945 more than 200,000 people were killed for political reasons. Franco’s troops fought with Germany and Italy in the Second World War.

The Spanish Constitution, written in 1978, upholds Spain’s dictatorial assertion the Catalans have no right to self-determination and that, therefore, any referendum is unlawful. The part of the constitution that says Spain is indivisible was added not by the “fathers” of the constitution, but by the military. Talking about this issue in Spain and Catalonia is taboo.
Alan Hinnrichs

THERESA May has said the main aim of the White Paper on Customs and Trading is to “minimise disruption to businesses and travellers”. So there will be disruptions. Also, businesses which currently trade solely within the single market will face additional work and costs as well as added regulations and procedures.

Lorry parks will be situated away from ports to avoid congestion, but there will be disruption nonetheless due to re-routing to reach the park.

Beyond the new procedural and checking systems, customs dues will increase costs to the consumer and damage the economy.

In addition, the proposals also stated that after leaving the lorry park, there will be a hold up “at the port” , a “means” to confirm that the goods in transit have left the UK. The nature of the “means” was not detailed. So there will be added disruption, congestion and delay.

One can also speculate on the possible revival of checks and hold-ups at ports and airports to check duty free allowances and purchases made abroad. Declaration of goods bought on holiday! Remember that? Will imported gifts and purchases by individuals now be subject to VAT on top of duty?
John Edgar