Posts Tagged ‘Madrid’

That Giant Sucking Sound is Post-Brexit London Losing Out

July 10, 2018

The U.K. capital’s rivals are slowly carving chunks out of its business.

There won’t be so many commuters like these.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Lingchi is the Chinese word for a form of torture in which flesh was systematically sliced from the body of the condemned, resulting in death by a thousand cuts. It was banned there in 1905; but, with Brexit looming, the practice is set for a revival in the City of London.

The British government continues to be riven by disagreements over what it wants its future relationship with the European Union to look like. And while the U.K. so far has only had one referendum on Brexit, the financial services industry gets to vote as often as it wants — and it is signaling deep disquiet with the likely outcome.

U.S. asset management behemoth BlackRock Inc. and investment bank Citigroup Inc. have been persuaded to expand in Paris with the promise of reduction in red tape, according to the Financial Times. JPMorgan Chase & Co. said last week that it’s asked “several dozen” of its London employees to relocate to other cities in the EU including Paris, Madrid and Milan. The moves could accelerate “depending on the outcome of negotiations,” the bank said in a memo.

The U.K. has already conceded that it won’t have the same access to EU markets for services after the divorce. The government said last week that it will seek “arrangements on financial services that preserve the mutual benefits of integrated markets and protect financial stability, noting that these could not replicate the EU’s passporting regimes.”

That’s not a particularly reassuring vision. Offering crash courses in French, Italian and German to soon-to-be-London-emigres could be a growth business for some enterprising entrepreneur.

So it’s little wonder that the number of foreign direct investment projects established in the U.K. last year declined, while other countries won more business, according to the latest U.K. Attractiveness Report published by consulting firm EY on Monday.

The drop in projects has real consequences. The U.K.’s share of the jobs created by the financial services industry in Europe shrank to 16 percent last year, its lowest level in a decade, according to EY. Back in 2016, the figure stood at 37 percent.

Ross Perot was wrong when he suggested in the 1992 presidential campaign that the “giant sucking sound” was the U.S. losing jobs as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement. But it’s increasingly hard to see how London can avoid an outflow of bankers, traders and investors if the current state of uncertainty persists.

The U.K. capital may, for now, remain the favored destination for investment in Europe, and it’s not about to hang up its brogues just yet. But money has always flowed to where it feels welcome and stayed where it’s well looked after. Given the current government’s apparent disdain for business in general and financial services in particular, no wonder London’s rivals are slowly carving out chunks of its business.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Mark Gilbert at magilbert@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-07-10/london-s-post-brexit-decline

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BlackRock and Citi plan Paris expansion in Macron coup

July 9, 2018

US fund manager chooses French capital as new base for alternative investment services

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Martin Arnold and Owen Walker in London and David Keohane in Paris

French president Emmanuel Macron’s charm offensive to win business from the City of London is starting to pay off as BlackRock and Citigroup join other Wall Street groups in expanding their Paris operations ahead of Brexit.

Mr Macron has rolled out the red carpet for financial services companies, promising to cut taxes and red tape while talking up the economic prospects of the country with a “France is back” pitch.

In a victory for the French president, BlackRock has chosen Paris over London for its new base to provide alternative investment services across Europe and Asia, as the world’s biggest money manager aims to dominate markets outside its US home.

The decision by BlackRock follows months of courting by the French establishment, including a meeting between Mr Macron and Larry Fink, chief executive of the $6.3tn asset manager, at the Elysée Palace.

The French leader has also persuaded Citi to expand in the country. The US bank recently poached senior investment bankers from UBS in France as part of plans to add dozens of extra staff in Paris.

“The effect of Macron has lightened up the country — before his election it was pretty bleak,” said Luigi de Vecchi, chairman of corporate and investment banking in continental Europe at Citi, who is moving from Milan to Paris. “As you talk to French CEOs, they are all pumped up with tons of cash and aggressive plans.”

BlackRock, which already has nearly 50 staff in Paris and manages around €30bn for French clients, applied to the French markets regulator, the Autorité des Marchés Financiers, two weeks ago for a licence to set up an alternative investment fund management company in the country. This would enable it to sell products such as hedge funds, real estate and commodities funds to the global market from its Paris office.

The company hopes to receive authorisation in September. Last month it hired Henri Chabadel as chief investment officer for France, Belgium and Luxembourg, based in Paris.

London will remain BlackRock’s main European office and the company does not plan to relocate staff from the UK to Paris. Any hires will be new roles. BlackRock declined to comment.

With nine months to go before the UK leaves the EU, financiers are frustrated at the lack of progress in negotiations on the terms of Britain’s departure. Many are starting to rejig their European operations to cope with any disruption. But Brexit was not the main motivation for the French expansion of BlackRock or Citi.

“The question is whether in the long term banks will see the number of large corporate clients reduced in the UK,” said Mr de Vecchi, pointing out that Brexit had made British companies vulnerable to takeover by weakening the pound. “Whereas in France you are seeing the creation of European champions.”

Arnaud de Bresson of the business lobby group Paris Europlace said financial companies were ramping up plans to open offices in France. “The first teams are arriving,” he added. “It’s true for asset management companies — including coming from London — but also for international banks.”

Citigroup, which employs about 160 people in Paris, said in an internal memo that it had hired Gregoire Haemmerle and Pierre Drevillon from UBS to become head of its French corporate and investment banking unit and head of French M&A, respectively.

Citi plans to add 150 jobs in its sales and trading operation in Frankfurt and as many as 100 more, mostly in Paris, but also spread across Milan, Madrid, Dublin and Amsterdam.

In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, most Wall Street banks opted for Frankfurt or Dublin to create their alternative EU hubs. But recently some have been unveiling plans to bulk up in Paris.

Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs, said in a tweet last year that he was “struck by the positive energy here in Paris” before the bank announced last month that France was a priority in its plans to double its workforce in continental Europe.

Bank of America said recently it was relocating three senior investment bankers from London to Paris. JPMorgan Chase said last week it expected to “migrate or add a few hundred roles” to the EU ahead of Brexit — many of which are set to be in Paris. Morgan Stanley also plans to add about 80 jobs in Paris after Brexit. HSBC, which already has a big French operation, has said it is likely to move up to 1,000 jobs to Paris.

In addition, inter-dealer broker TP ICAP is in talks with French regulators about setting up a base in Paris in the first quarter of 2019.

https://www.ft.com/content/164ee490-8147-11e8-8e67-1e1a0846c475

Bank of America starts banking operation shift from London to Paris

June 26, 2018

US bank says three senior executives will move to French capital next year

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© AP

By Martin Arnold

Bank of America has sounded the starting gun on moving a chunk of its investment banking operations to Paris in preparation for Brexit by appointing three senior executives who will move to the French capital next year.

Sanaz Zaimi, BofA’s head of global fixed income, currencies and commodities (FICC) sales will transfer to Paris to assume an additional role as head of the US bank’s expanded French operation, according to an internal memo seen by the Financial Times.

The appointment indicates how global banks are pressing ahead with moving people and activities out of the UK as business leaders grow increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress in political negotiations on the terms of the country’s exit from the EU next March.

BofA has chosen Dublin as the main headquarters for its post-Brexit EU operations, but its Irish office will mostly house back-office staff working in finance, risk, compliance, audit and wholesale credit.

The US bank has chosen Paris as the main alternative hub to London for its investment banking operations. It is refurbishing a new office in the centre of Paris to house hundreds of staff in its sales and trading operations, many of whom are likely to move from London.

One senior BofA executive in London said the bank appeared determined to move faster than its rival US banks in pressing ahead with its Brexit plans. The executive added that many staff have been reluctant to volunteer to move to either Dublin or Paris.

The new Paris office, near the Elysée palace in the eighth arrondissement, could hold up to 1,000 people. But people briefed on the bank’s plans said it had not decided on how many people would move, or started approaching individuals, and it may sublet unused space.

Ms Zaimi, who was born in Iran but educated at the Sorbonne in Paris, will be supported in overseeing BofA’s enlarged Paris operation by two senior French-educated executives from the bank’s FICC sales and trading team in London.

Vanessa Holtz will become head of EU FICC trading in addition to her existing job as co-head of Emea G10 foreign exchange trading. Othmane Kabbaj will become head of EU FICC sales in addition to his role as head of Emea emerging markets FICC sales. Ms Holtz also studied at the Sorbonne and Mr Kabbaj went to Hautes Études Commerciales in Paris.

The memo, from BofA’s chief operating officer Tom Montag, said the trio would “relocate from London to our new Paris office during 2019” and added: “Further EU leadership appointments will be announced in due course.”

“Please join me in thanking each of our leaders for their ongoing commitment to our business and to the seamless servicing of our EU clients,” said Mr Montag.

Brian Moynihan, BofA’s chief executive, said last year that the bank’s “entire EU footprint will get bigger”, with extra staff in Madrid, Milan, Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam and other places where it has a critical mass of clients.

France, which is undergoing an economic resurgence under President Macron, has made no secret of its intentions to attract financial jobs to Paris. HSBC, which already has a big French operation, has said it is likely to move up to 1,000 jobs to Paris.

https://www.ft.com/content/be4cb8cc-7934-11e8-bc55-50daf11b720d

Catalonia declares independence as Spain prepares to impose direct rule

October 27, 2017

Spain’s leader Mariano Rajoy immediately tweets to say the rule of law will be restored

By Jon Sharman

The Independent

Catalonia declared independence from Spain less than an hour before a vote in the country’s Senate gave Madrid the power to seize the region’s autonomous powers.

The vote in the regional parliament followed a tense week of last-ditch negotiations between Madrid and Barecelona. Seventy of 135 Catalan deputies voted for independence, with 10 opposed and two blank ballot slips.

Opposition lawmakers had walked out of the chamber ahead of Friday’s vote in protest.

Rounds of applause broke out in the chamber as members of the parliament hugged and shook hands.

Thousands of people watched the voting process and the counting live on big screens outside Catalonia’s parliament in Barcelona, and cheered and danced after the motion was passed.

The motion calls for beginning an independence process that includes drafting Catalonia’s new top laws and opening negotiations “on equal footing” with Spanish authorities to establish co-operation.

Pido tranquilidad a todos los españoles. El Estado de Derecho restaurará la legalidad en Cataluña. MR

On Thursday Catalan president Carles Puigdemont had ruled out calling a snap election, thought to have been a potential way of defusing tension with the central government.

Mr Puigdemont said he had not received sufficient guarantees that Madrid would hold off on its attempts to take control of the region.

Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, tweeted immediately after the vote calling for calm. He said the rule of law would be restored in Catalonia.

Spain’s senate voted on Friday, shortly after the Catalan independence vote, to trigger Article 155 of the constitution and allow the imposition of direct rule.

The vote will give Madrid the authority to govern Catalonia is the first direct intervention by central authorities in the affairs of one of the country’s 17 autonomous areas.

Mr Rajoy will have the power to sack Mr Puigdemont and his cabinet among other measures. Mr Rajoy is understood to be planning immediately to enact the Article 155 provisions during an urgent meeting on Friday afternoon.

The crisis stems from an independence referendum, held earlier this month, that Spanish judges had declared unconstitutional.

Before it went ahead Madrid authorities confiscated ballot papers and closed polling stations, with clashes erupting in the streets.

An overwhelming majority of those who did vote favoured secession, but turnout was low and there is a substantial section of the Catalan population that wants to remain a part of Spain.

Following Friday’s independence vote, European Council president Donald Tusk said “nothing changes” for the EU, adding it would continue only to deal with the Madrid government.

Mr Tusk urged Spain to favour “force of argument, not argument of force” in addressing the independence declaration.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/catalonia-independence-latest-spain-direct-rule-catalan-parliament-president-a8023221.html

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Spanish PM Rajoy asks Senate for authority to depose Catalonian leader Puigdemont

October 27, 2017

AFP

© AFP file picture | Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (right) asked senators to depose Catalonia’s regional President Carles Puigdemont on October 27.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-10-27

Spain’s premier urged senators Friday to adopt radical measures to impose direct rule on rebel Catalonia and depose its president in a bid to halt the region’s independence bid.

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy asked parliament’s upper house, where his party holds a majority, to “proceed to the dismissal of the president of the Catalan government, his vice-president and all regional ministers.”

The senate is scheduled to vote later Friday on measures to depose Catalonia‘s secessionist government before the week is out, after the region held an unlawful independence referendum on October 1.

Senators gave Rajoy a standing ovation.

Many expect the region’s separatist leaders to push back with an independence declaration.

The Catalan parliament, where pro-secession parties hold sway, will meet in Barcelona where a proposal to vote on splitting from Spain could work its way onto the floor.

>>Article 155: Spain’s ‘nuclear option’ to stop Catalan independence

On Thursday, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont opted not to call elections for a new regional parliament — thought to be the only way to stave off Madrid’s imminent power grab.

Warning that seizure of control by the central government would escalate the crisis, he passed the buck to the regional parliament “to determine the consequences” of the threatened takeover — thus leaving the door open for a possible independence push.

‘MIXED REACTIONS IN BARCELONA’, SAYS FRANCE 24’S AURORE DUPUIS

Spain and Catalonia have been locked in a constitutional standoff since a “Yes” vote in the unregulated plebiscite which secessionist leaders hold up as a popular mandate for independence for the region of 7.5 million people.

Only about 43 percent of voters turned out, however, with many anti-secessionists staying away and others prevented from casting their ballot by Spanish police in a crackdown that turned violent.

>>Video: A Tango between Barcelona and Madrid

Based on the vote, Puigdemont threatened a declaration of independence, which Rajoy described Friday as “a challenge of unprecedented dimensions.”

Madrid has turned to Article 155 of the constitution — a never-before-used provision designed to rein in rebels among Spain’s 17 regions, which enjoy varying levels of autonomy.

Measures drawn up under the article are set to enter into force on Saturday, and will see the central government seek to temporarily take over Catalonia’s civil service, police, purse, and public broadcaster.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria insisted Thursday the government was “fulfilling a legal obligation, a democratic obligation and a political obligation,” by its actions.

But the move is likely to anger Catalans, fiercely protective of their autonomy, even if divided on independence.

Independence supporters are ready to fight back.

Albert Botran, a regional lawmaker for the far-left CUP party that backs Puigdemont and wants to split from Spain, vowed Friday to “make it difficult for the new, illegitimate government to get away with it.”

“The first action will be resistance,” he told Catalonia Radio.

‘Impatient’ to leave

Catalonia’s parliament met to discuss the issue late Thursday, where opposition lawmakers pleaded with Puigdemont to find a solution to the standoff closely watched by a European Union nervous wary of nationalist and secessionist sentiment, particularly after Britain’s dramatic decision to leave the bloc.

“You still have time to return to legality and call elections,” Ines Arrimadas, regional leader of the anti-independence Ciudadanos party, appealed.

Catalans are fiercely protective of their language, culture and autonomy — restored after the 1939-75 dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Fears for Catalonia’s economy have increased as uncertainty persists over the independence drive, with some 1,600 companies having moved their legal headquarters out of the region in recent weeks.

Catalonia accounts for about 16 percent of Spain’s population and a fifth of its economic output.

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Spain on tenterhooks ahead of Catalan crisis sessions — Regional parliament may actually take the step of declaring independence

October 27, 2017

The Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Two crucial meetings were to take place Friday in Spain that could decide the short-term future of a country undergoing its worst political crisis in decades.

Catalonia’s parliament will resume debating its response to the Spanish government’s plans to strip away its regional powers to halt it pushing toward independence. But in Madrid, Spain’s Senate was meeting to approve the government’s plans and set the intervention in motion under constitutional powers.

The government’s proposals include removing the Catalan government’s regional leaders from office and curtailing the authority of the region’s parliament.

The Catalan government  rejects the move and there is speculation the regional parliament may actually take the step of declaring independence from Spain later Friday.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont faces what could be his last day in power by joining lawmakers to decide whether to defy Spanish laws with the declaration.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is expected to address the Senate meeting and defend his demand for the extraordinary powers.

It will be the first time in four decades of democratic rule that the Madrid-based national government would directly run the affairs of one of the 17 semi-autonomous regions, a move that will likely fan the flames of the Catalan revolt.

Rajoy says the measures are aimed at restoring order and has promised to call a new regional election once that is achieved.

Puigdemont scrapped hopes of a possible end to the political deadlock on Thursday when he opted not to call an early election himself and halt the drift toward independence.

The parliamentary sessions in Madrid and Barcelona are likely to last several hours before each votes on their resolutions.

Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party has an absolute majority in the Senate, thus guaranteeing the approval of his proposals. It will then be up to government to decide which and when to implement.

Catalonia represents a fifth of Spain’s gross domestic product. Polls show its 7.5 million inhabitants are roughly evenly divided over independence.

**************************************

BBC News

Catalan crisis: Spain Senate to vote on emergency powers

Students with Catalan flags chanted “independence”.

The Spanish Senate is due to discuss a plan by the Madrid government to take over some of Catalonia’s autonomous powers, amid an escalating crisis over the region’s push for independence.

Earlier this month Catalonia held a disputed referendum on the issue.

The Senate is expected to pass the emergency measures, which include sacking the Catalan president.

Meanwhile the regional parliament has been debating a possible declaration of independence.

The debate began on Thursday, after Catalan President Carles Puigdemont failed to reveal a favoured course of action, and called on MPs to decide on a response.

Mr Puigdemont signed a declaration of independence following the 1 October vote, but immediately halted implementation and called for negotiations between Catalonia and the Spanish government.

The Catalan government said that of the 43% who took part in the referendum, 90% were in favour of independence.

However, the Constitutional Court ruled it was illegal.

Carles Puigdemont in parliament, 26 October
Carles Puigdemont (right) has been under pressure not to call a snap election. Reuters photo

How did Thursday’s debate unfold?

During Thursday’s Catalan parliamentary session, a government spokesman said a proposal to implement the results of a referendum on independence would be submitted to lawmakers on Friday.

Hard-line separatists continued their calls for an official declaration of independence.

“We will continue on the path to a Catalan republic,” an MP for the far-left CUP, which provides key support for the pro-independence governing coalition, said.

A Catalan government representative and a Spanish government minister fail to see eye to eye in a BBC interview

But Ines Arrimadas, leader of the anti-independence Citizens’s Party, accused Mr Puigdemont of missing countless opportunities to resolve the crisis through negotiation.

“You still have time to return to legality and call elections,” she said.

What will happen in the Spanish Senate on Friday?

The Senate is due to hold a vote on the government’s plan to trigger Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which empowers the government to take “all measures necessary to compel” a region in case of a crisis.

The article has never been used before.

Under the proposals announced by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy this week, Mr Puigdemont would be removed and new regional elections held. Madrid would take control of Catalonia’s finances, police and public media.

Mr Rajoy’s centre-right government has a majority in the Senate. The plan has also been approved by opposition parties.


Adding fuel to the fire

By Katya Adler, Europe Editor, BBC News in Barcelona

Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 constitution has never been used before in democratic Spain. And for good reason.

Spaniards call it their government’s “nuclear option”.

But on Friday the Spanish Senate is expected to vote in favour of triggering Article 155 and stripping the region of Catalonia of its autonomous powers.

The move is the only way, the Spanish government insists, to calm the Catalan crisis.

But Catalan leaders say such a move will simply add fuel to the fire – making it more likely that Friday will be the day that they officially declare an independent Catalan republic.

Friday’s front page headline of Spain’s Barcelona-based newspaper El Periodico tells the story. It reads: “Unilateral Declaration of Independence and Goodbye.”


More on the Catalan crisis

Catalonia in numbers

  • 16% of Spain’s population live in Catalonia, and it produces:
  • 25.6% of Spain’s exports
  • 19% of Spain’s GDP
  • 20.7% of foreign investment
.
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Pro-independence Catalans celebrate Diada national day ahead of vote

September 12, 2017

Pro-secessionist Catalans took to the streets on the region’s Diada national day. The political temperature is rising as Madrid and Barcelona head for a showdown ahead of an October vote on independence.

Demonstrators fill Barcelona's streets to push for Catalan independence (Reuters/S. Vera)Pro-independence demonstrators fill Barcelona’s streets on the Catalan national day

The streets of Barcelona were filled with Catalonia’s colors of yellow and red on Monday as hundreds of thousands of people celebrated the region’s national day, known as “Diada.” The event was dominated by pro-independence supporters, hoping that an October 1 referendum will allow the semi-autonomous region to split with Spain and become a separate country.

The fact that Spain’s central government has declared the upcoming vote illegal did not tamper the excitement of pro-secessionists, many of whom enthusiastically waved the “estelada” — the red-and-yellow striped flag adorned with a blue triangle and star that is the emblem of an independent Catalonia. T-shirts, banners reading “Si” (yes) and signs called for independence. Many shouted “Independence” and also sang the Catalan national anthem.

A man wears a t-shirt with the flag of an independent Catalonia (Reuters/S. Vera)A t-shirt with the flag of an independent Catalonia

However, the issue remains divisive among the Catalonian’s 7.5 million inhabitants. Many Catalans want a referendum to settle the independence issue but want it to take place through constitutionally-approved proceedings.

Disputed numbers

Barcelona’s police, the Guardia Urbana, tweeted that around a million people were on the streets of Barcelona to celebrate the holiday that marks the 1714 defeat of the then-highly autonomous region by the Spanish crown.

However, the central government’s delegation in Catalonia disputed the number, instead placing it around 350,000. Spanish daily El Pais claimed around 500,000 took part based on its own rough calculations using surface area.

The Catalan police, known as Mossos, thanked all participants for their collaboration and civility.

Cap incident destacable a la concentració de la . Gràcies per la col·laboració i civisme de tots els participants en el dia d’avui

Read more: Terror attacks in Spain could pose problems for Catalonian independence

Demonstrators concentrated at the intersection of the Paseo de Gracia and Aragon, filling the downtown avenues to form a giant “X” symbolizing a yes on the October 1 ballot that will ask whether voters whether they want Catalonia to become an independent state.

Catalan President Carles Puidgement tweeted a video showing the crowded streets and thanking all those who turned out to push for the referendum.

Gràcies a tots els qui ho heu tornat a fer possible. Increïble! La millor empenta per al referèndum de l’ ☑ | 

“What more do we have to do to make it understood that the people of Catalonia want to vote?” Puigdemont asked.

Read more: Spain vows to cut off funds to Catalonia over independence vote

Madrid and Barcelona face off

The day’s celebration took place as tension between Catalan pro-independence politicians and the Spanish central government under conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has reached a new high point.

Rajoy tweeted a simple message Monday morning: “For a Diada of liberty, coexistence and respect for all Catalans.”

Por una Diada de libertad, convivencia y respeto para todos los catalanes. Feliz día. MR

Rajoy’s government considers the planned vote to be illegal, and last week Spain’s highest court suspended the referendum law that had been passed one day earlier by Catalonia’s regional parliament in a fast-tracked measure. But Puigdemont’s pro-independence regional government has vowed to push on with the vote.

Economic and cultural causes

Catalan nationalists want independence for a variety of reasons. Some resent that the wealthy region sends more money to the central government than it receives from it. Others feel that the distinctive Catalan language and cultural traditions make them a nation entitled to their own state based on right of self-determination.

According to July 2017 polls conducted by the regional government, there is 41 percent support for Catalonia as an independent state, a slight drop from 44 percent in March. On the other hand, 49 percent oppose a split from Spain.

Since the 2012 Diada — the first year it was celebrated within the shadow of a secession movement  — Barcelona police have pegged the total number of the day’s pro-independence participants above a million, save for last year when they estimated a turn out of 800,000. The central government delegation has estimated the turnout during those years to be much lower.

http://www.dw.com/en/pro-independence-catalans-celebrate-diada-national-day-ahead-of-vote/a-40457245

Catalan Parties Step Up Referendum Planning in Clash With Madrid

August 28, 2017

MADRID — Pro-separatist parties in the Spanish region of Catalonia said on Monday they were going ahead with legal preparations to create an independent state as they prepare for a disputed referendum on secession in October.

The row over Catalonia’s planned independence referendum, which is firmly opposed by the central government in Madrid, had briefly faded after an Islamist attack in Barcelona and another in the resort of Cambrils on Aug. 17 and 18.

People wave separatist flags at a rally in Barcelona

 People wave separatist flags at a rally in Barcelona. A recent poll showed that 47.7% of Catalans support independence. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

But it is likely to intensify in coming weeks as pro-separatist parties, which control the regional assembly in Catalonia, lay the groundwork for the vote they want to hold on Oct. 1.

On Monday, Catalan party leaders outlined the legal framework for the transition to an independent republic they say would take effect if a majority of people in Catalonia vote “yes” to splitting from Spain.

It is not clear, however, if and how the referendum can take place. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government has vowed to strike down any further secessionist challenges in court.

Spain’s Constitutional Court has already halted attempts to fast-track other preparations for the referendum, and it probably will be asked to invalidate the framework for independence as soon as it is approved by Catalonia’s regional assembly.

The proposed law, which will be put to the regional assembly before Oct. 1, includes provisions for dual Catalan-Spanish nationality and a new judicial system.

The war of words between Catalonia and the central government has escalated in recent days, in spite of a huge demonstration in Barcelona on Saturday where leaders from across the political spectrum turned out to march together after the attacks, which killed 16 people.

On Sunday, Rajoy called on those in favor of breaking away to give up their plans. Days earlier, the leader of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, had charged the central government with deliberately underfunding the region’s security forces.

Opinion polls have long shown that a majority of people in Catalonia, an affluent northeastern region with its own language and culture, favor holding a referendum on their status.

But recent surveys have shown enthusiasm for secession dipping and that fewer than half of Catalans actually support breaking away.

(Reporting by Inmaculada Sanz and Sarah White; Editing by Angus Berwick)

Leaked UK memo accuses Paris of wanting to sink City of London

July 17, 2017

AFP

© Leon Neal, AFP file picture | The City of London financial district, including the Gherkin (right) and the ‘Walkie Talkie’ (front) towers.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2017-07-17

France is pushing for a hard Brexit in a bid to weaken the City of London, the British finance sector’s EU frontman warned in a leaked report published on Sunday.

“They are crystal clear about their underlying objective: the weakening of Britain, the ongoing degradation of the City of London,” Jeremy Browne, a former government minister who is now the City’s Brexit envoy, said in a memo.

The leaked report, published by the Mail on Sunday tabloid, was written as a summary to ministers of a trip made by Browne to France in early July.

“The meeting with the French Central Bank was the worst I have had anywhere in the EU. They are in favour of the hardest Brexit. They want disruption,” he said.

Browne acknowledged there may be political benefits to France of playing “bad cop” in the negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, which began last month and resumed in Brussels on Monday.

But “we should nevertheless have our eyes open that France sees Britain and the City of London as adversaries, not partners”.

According to Browne, this approach was not confined to a few officials, but was a “whole-of-France collective endeavour, made both more giddy and more assertive by the election of (Emmanuel) Macron” as president in May”. Aside from his meeting with the French Central Bank, he did not specify which other officials he had spoken with.

Browne added that “every country, not unreasonably, is alive to the opportunities that Brexit provides, but the French go further”.

He said they are “seemingly happy to see outcomes detrimental to the City of London even if Paris is not the beneficiary”.

Many cities in running to replace London

Paris is competing with Amsterdam, Dublin, Frankfurt, Madrid and Luxembourg for an expected shift in finance jobs out of London as a result of Brexit.

With Britain at risk of losing the “passporting rights” financial firms use to deal with clients in the rest of the bloc, employees in direct contact with customers may need to be based on EU territory in future.

The day after Britain voted to leave the EU in June last year, Valérie Pécresse, the head of the Paris regional government, sent out hand-signed letters to 4,000 small, medium and large international enterprises in London, underscoring the benefits of moving their businesses to Paris.

And in October, Paris’s financial centre La Défense launched the PR-campaign “Tired of the fog? Try the frogs” aimed at attracting companies across the Channel. In November, the city of Paris, the Paris regional government and the French chamber of commerce also set up a so-called “Brexit cell”, dubbed Choose Paris Region, a team exclusively dedicated to responding to queries — many of them anonymous — from companies considering a potential move from London to Paris in the light of Brexit.

Earlier this month, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe laid out a raft of measures aimed at boosting Paris’s attractiveness, including eliminating the top income tax bracket.

Browne, who was an MP for the pro-European Liberal Democrats until 2015, served as a junior foreign office minister in former prime minister David Cameron’s coalition government.

He was appointed special representative to the EU by the City of London Corporation, which represents the financial sector, in September 2015.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Huge Crowds Flock to World’s Largest LGBT Festival in Madrid

July 2, 2017

MADRID — After more than a week of events, concerts and a parade attended by hundreds of thousands, Madrid World Pride, the latest incarnation of the largest LGBT festival in the world, ended on Sunday.

Since its inception in 2000, World Pride is held once every several years in major cities across the world to promote rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)communities.

Over 10 days, the Madrid festival has hosted events ranging from a global human rights conference to a race in which men sprinted along a central street in towering three-inch heels.

Madrid World Pride coincided with the 40th anniversary of the first LGBT pride protest in Spain.

In a closing ceremony in central Madrid on Sunday, revelers gathered to see musical acts from across the world, including the host cities of previous parades, Jerusalem, Toronto and London.

The next World Pride will take place in New York in 2019, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall demonstrations, when members of the gay community protested against violent treatment at the hands of the police.

(Writing and reporting by Sam Edwards in Barcelona; Editing by Mark Potter)