MADRID (Reuters) – Spain appealed to Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to “act sensibly” on Wednesday, just 24 hours before a government deadline for the region to renounce a bid for independence.
“I ask Puigdemont to act sensibly, in a balanced way, to put the interests of all citizens first,” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in parliament.
Madrid has threatened Catalonia, which accounts for a fifth of Spain’s economy, with direct rule if Puigdemont does not retract by Thursday an ambiguous declaration of independence he made last week.
The row has rattled financial markets and sent companies scurrying to shift their legal bases in a flight to safer ground.
Seven hundred companies left Catalonia between Oct. 2 – the day after a referendum on independence which Madrid branded illegal – and Oct. 16, according to Spain’s companies registry and .
Thursday’s deadline is Puigdemont’s last chance to abandon an independence declaration which he made and then immediately suspended on Oct. 10. Madrid has ridiculed the ambiguity of the proclamation, which remained unclear after a previous deadline expired on Monday.
Additional reporting by Paul Day; Writing by Isla Binnie; Editing by Richard Balmforth