the euro zone

Minority status

There is one glaring similarity between the governments of Spain and the UK at the moment, in that both are having a hard time getting anything done. Theresa May's defeat in the so-called Meaningful Vote on Tuesday was the most emphatic in British parliamentary history (432 voted against it, including 118 ministers from her own party), and will probably result in a no-deal Brexit. Over in Madrid, meanwhile, Pedro Sánchez's 2019 budget is unlikely to garner cross-party support when presented to congress next week. The reason for these prime ministers' difficulties is, at root, the same: both lead parties that have a minority status in their respective parliaments.

Sánchez's 2019 spending plan, already four months late, is unlikely to receive the drubbing that May's Brexit deal suffered on Tuesday evening. But it's far from certain that he'll be able to get the budget through congress, as his Socialist party sits on just 84 of the 350 seats in the lower house. With that in mind, Sánchez has included measures that he hopes will win the support of pro-Catalan independence groups and radical left Unidos Podemos (UP). These parties' votes are crucial, as without them the PSOE leader's ambitious spending plan won't see the light of day.

In a move likely to anger other parts of Spain, Sánchez proposes to increase Catalonia's public funds to 16.8% of total regional spending in 2019, up from 13.1% last year. This would make the north-easterly region - now led by vehemently pro-independence president Quim Torra - recipient of the largest amount of funds from Madrid in 2019, a fact which Ciudadanos' general secretary has rightly called a "gift for [Catalan] separatists". Yet even that hike isn't guaranteed to secure the necessary votes, with some pro-independence parties saying their support is contingent upon jailed Catalan separatists being released.

More dependable, although still not a sure thing, is the backing of UP, with which the PSOE drafted large parts of the budget last autumn. UP will be pleased with a planned increase of 40% in spending on housing, social care and investments and bigger taxes for corporations and high earners. But its lawmakers have already identified eleven features of the 2019 budget which they say break agreements made with the PSOE last October.

The fact that Sánchez's budget negotiations are beginning several months later than they should have done also means that they will run parallel to final preparations for the UK's withdrawal from the EU. Both processes will involve embattled prime ministers trying to secure cross-party support, in their respective parliaments, for the biggest deals of their careers. Not easy to do when you lead a government with such a weak grip on power - as has been demonstrated, over and over, by both Sánchez's and May's minority leaderships.