Argument that Brussels has no standing in independence dispute is legally contentious and politically unsustainable

Who will save the Spanish from themselves? As mutual rage grows, Catalonia seems to be heading off a cliff. Carles Puigdemont, the separatists’ leader, is vowing to declare an independent state within days. King Felipe had one shot at reuniting the country – and blew it with a one-sided, darkly scare-mongering speech.

Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s prime minister, is not backing down either. He is threatening direct rule from Madrid and a mass purge if a Catalonian unilateral declaration of independence goes ahead. That is a recipe for violence far exceeding last Sunday’s street clashes with police.

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