Together for Catalonia (Junts per Catalunya), the pro-independence party that ensured Pedro Sánchez's return to power, has lost no time in making its presence felt. This week, it refused to vote in favour of a package of economic reforms, pending an agreement with Sánchez on measures affecting businesses that moved out of Catalonia in 2017. The pro-independence party seems not to have realised, though, that the very fact it wants to lure those companies home highlights one of the biggest economic problems that an independent Catalonia would face.
Junts wants the Spanish government to incentivise a return to Catalonia for the thousands of companies - some sources say around 5,000, others closer to 9,000 - that moved their headquarters out of the region following separatists' failed secession bid in 2017. Those companies included two of Spain's biggest banks, La Caixa and Sabadell, which relocated to Valencia and Alicante respectively. Many businesses swapped Barcelona for Madrid while others headed to Aragon, the Balearics or Andalucía. Junts also proposes that any companies that opt to remain in these new domiciles face financial sanctions for doing so.
The Catalan independence issue has already blurred the supposedly robust distinction between the legislative and executive branches of government. Now the region's most hardline secessionist group is proposing that Sánchez, acting in support of a cause with which he supposedly disagrees, shoulder into the private sector to tell Spanish companies where they should and shouldn't operate from.
In other words, the PSOE leader should have no problem endorsing Junt's interventionist proposals, combining as they do two of his favourite tactics: stepping outside a government's legitimate sphere of activity and imposing fines on anyone who fails to do what he wants. It should be a done deal.
When announcing the proposals, Junt's spokesperson Josep Ruis failed to mention one obvious point - that the reason for the mass corporate exodus in the first place was political uncertainty caused by Catalan separatists, in particular their organisation of an illegal referendum. Why would these businesses come back if there is still a possibility of more of the same in the near or medium-term future?
It will take more than tax breaks to reunite the diaspora of businesses once based in Catalonia. Perhaps they would consider heading home if the region's separatists assured them that they were shelving their secessionist project and making peace with Madrid. Instead, of course, they have made it clear that they will use their new role in congress to push that cause harder than ever. I can't think of a more powerful reason for businesses who left Catalonia in 2017 to stay put wherever they are now.