BUDGET WRANGLING: Latest developments in the buildup to Spain’s 2019 budget

A DETAINED pro-Catalan independence figure has said he will not be used as a “bargaining chip” in ongoing efforts to secure enough parliamentary votes to pass next year’s budget.
It comes as the leader of the centrist Ciudadanos accused the ruling left-leaning Partido Socialista (PSOE) of “irresponsibility” as it courts regionalist parties to get backing for the budget.
Jordi Sanchez, the former head of the Junts per Cataluña party (JxCat), said that he and other pro-independence figures did not stage last year’s vote to help pass budgets.
Sanchez remains in pre-trial custody in connection with last year’s independence referendum and declaration attempt.
His comments come as Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera said the PSOE and the leftist Podemos party were acting irresponsibly by attempting to negotiate with regionalist and pro-independence groups.
Pablo Iglesias, leader of Podemos which is allied to the PSOE in Parliament, attempted to secure backing for the budget last week.
He has visited jailed pro-Catalan independence figures to secure support from parties including the Partit Democrata Europeu Catala (PDeCAT) and the leftist Esquerra Republicana de Cataluña (ERC).
Rivera said the courting of such parties amounted to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez “cleansing” the image of those who wanted to break up Spain.
“The budget and other laws decide the future of this country. There is no need to exaggerate what is already serious enough, negotiating budgets in jail is serious,” he said.
The Ciudadanos leader added the budget was a “blow” to the self-employed and to drivers.
Maria Jesus Montero, Spain’s Finance Minister, said previously she “personally” would not go to negotiate with jailed figures on behalf of the government. She added Iglesias was free to talk to who he pleased but that he was not acting for the government.
“It is the government who has the responsibility for securing agreements for the 2019 budget,” she said.
Cracks have begun to appear in the budget pact agreed by PSOE and Podemos. Iglesias was set to press the government on planned fee hikes which could affect some self-employed workers.
Pablo Echenique, Podemos’ Secretary, said his party did not agree to the increases as wrangling over budget plans looks set to continue.

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Joe Gerrard

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