The agreement made earlier in 2021, at the time of the investiture of Pere Aragonès's Catalan government, spoke of coordination between the pro-independence parties in Madrid, without any further details. But what has been seen these two days in the Congress of Deputies is something quite different. The Spanish government has managed to get the draft budget through the first stage of its parliamentary passage, but facing it has been a divided pro-independence lobby, fractured as it has been before. On the one hand, ERC negotiating its votes for Sánchez and PDeCAT rejecting vetoes. On the other hand, Junts and the CUP voting to reject the budget bill in its entirety. The clash was evident between the party spokespeople, Gabriel Rufián for ERC and Míriam Nogueras of Junts.
Seven parties moved votes - which were taken together - to throw out the bill at this stage: the PP, Vox, Junts, the CUP, Ciudadanos, the Coalición Canária and Fórum Astúrias. The vote to reject the budget was defeated by a majority of the Spanish lower house: 156 votes in favour, 188 against and one abstention. The path of the budget is thus able to continue, guaranteed numerically thanks to the agreements sealed last week with ERC and the Basque Nationalists (PNV). Catalonia's PDeCAT and Euskadi's EH Bildu also voted to allow the admission of the budget.
Yesterday, the clash between the Catalan parties was made tangible in the address of Míriam Nogueras, who railed against ERC's strategy, using expressions such as "a blank check" and votes "for nothing". The Junts spokesperson was highly skeptical of the protection of the Catalan language in the future Audiovisual Law negotiated by ERC: "We all know that no Spanish law will protect Catalan, because no Spanish law has ever done so." And she also criticised the failure to execute the investments promised for Catalonia: "The [lack of] euros leaves everybody in the shit, not just the pro-independence parties." She reiterated that it is necessary to negotiate jointly and "be paid in advance". Because, so far, "the only one that is being paid in advance is the PSOE."
On the other hand, ERC, which today responded to the accusations of Junts over its pact with the Spanish government. Spokesperson Gabriel Rufián replied by firing a single barb: "Anyone who describes this as useless or 'in return for nothing' has been sitting in a seat for a very long time, travelling in an official car and living on Twitter." That said, he repeated to the Spanish government what he said last Friday when the budget support agreement with the PSOE was announced: that this is just the beginning: "Only the first phase of this negotiation has been overcome. It is up to you to be able to overcome the second”.
In the cross-fire between the two Catalan government partners, the other pro-independence parties in Congress also appeared. On the one hand, the CUP, which had also registered its rejection of the entire draft bill, but it rejected the strategy of both ERC and Junts. In the words of the CUP's Mireia Vehí, both ERC's method of reaching agreements with the Spanish government that are not met, and that of Junts, "more belligerent" but then agreeing to expand the El Prat airport with the Sánchez executive. And PDeCAT spokesperson Ferran Bel, despite also making demands on Pedro Sánchez, rebuked both Junts and the CUP for joining the “no to everything” game played by the Spanish right and extreme right parties.
A tense debate
The discussion was heated, and not just because of the battle between the pro-independence forces. In fact, the debate on the vote to throw out the budget already began with the leader of the PP, Pablo Casado, talking about "ruinous" and "radical" public accounts that will sink the Spanish economy. Spanish treasury minister María Jesús Montero replied to Casado that he was a "caricature of himself". The decibels rose sharply in the chamber yesterday, with shouts and even insults. Like the "dickhead" exclamation which a far-right Vox deputy made to Montero. Acting speaker Ana Pastor demanded that the member withdraw the phrase from the parliamentary record.
With the debate on the full rejection of the budget overcome, the bill will now be debated and amended in committee before returning to the full Congress and then the Senate, with the final vote expected to arrive before the end of the year.