Spanish prime minister says Catalan government’s powers will be returned to Madrid, as tensions rise between supporters and opponents of independence

Spain was plunged deep into political crisis on Saturday after the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, announced that he is stripping Catalonia of its autonomy and imposing direct rule from Madrid in a bid to crush the regional leadership’s move to secede.

The decision, which prompted fear and anger across Catalonia, has dramatically escalated Spain’s deepest constitutional crisis since the restoration of democracy in 1977. Observers say the move could raise the spectre of Basque nationalism, and have repercussions across a Europe that is facing the rise of nationalist and separatist movements.

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