The Institute for Fiscal Studies said that without further savings – either from benefits or tax increases – some areas of the public sector would be faced with "inconceivable cuts" in the next parliament...
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For one reason or another, a fair few British expats living in Majorca opt to return to Blighty by road, taking the ferry to Barcelona - a seven hour crossing - and travelling through Spain and France in order to reach the UK via Eurotunnel or a regular ferry.
West Ham have signed former Arsenal midfielder Alex Song on a season-long loan deal from Barcelona.
The 26-year-old Cameroon international, wearing a Hammers shirt, was introduced to home fans before Saturday's Premier League game against Southampton.
"I think the club has very good ambition and I hope we can maybe catch the European positions," he said.
Song joined Barcelona in 2012 from Arsenal for about £15m with an 80m euros (£63m) release clause.
He played 206 times for the Gunners between 2005 and 2012 and has made 39 appearances since moving to the Nou Camp.
The Hammers indicated they fought off interest from "some of Europe's biggest clubs" to seal the deal.
And Song said he was impressed by the ambitions of the London club, which will move from the Boleyn Ground to the Olympic Stadium in time for the 2016-17 season.
"I need some games to be ready and get my fitness back," he said...
Peter Preston: Keep the pound, keep the BBC, EU directives as usual: the idea is for bracing, defining change you won’t greatly notice
I was driving to a conference in Granada almost two decades ago, sitting by the side of the king of Spain, when there was a sudden beating on the car’s window. We’d stopped at the hall’s security gate. King Juan Carlos wound down the window and, immediately, his hand was grasped and shaken hard. The door opened. There was a slightly fawning little chat while cameras clicked. It was my first close encounter with Jordi Pujol, the Alex Salmond of Catalan nationalism.
Scotland votes on 18 September, a binding decision; Catalonia votes on 9 November, non-binding but hugely significant. Edinburgh and Barcelona are, as they have been for years, brothers under the skin, constantly sending delegations back and forth, walking in step towards independence. They posted pictures of David Cameron in Vic this month, hailing him as a Catalan hero for giving Scotland a vote. If Scotland says yes, it will be a huge boost to Catalan hopes. But no? Here’s where the small, squat figure of Pujol starts knocking on the car window again...
I know that, according to one recent survey, there’s a whole generation of British schoolchildren growing up believing that the Spanish Armada is a type of tapas. Yet, for those of us raised with the year 1588 etched in our national collective memory, a new sculpture show at the Saatchi Gallery should prove evocative.
Like all good art, though, Mascaró’s fleet, offers different meanings to different people. Titled "Departure", for some the vessels may eerily evoke the funerary boats of Ancient Egypt, or ghost ships like the Marie Celeste; for others the sense may be less literal, suggesting, say, the passage through life itself...
Goals from Lionel Messi and the teenager Munir El Haddadi ensured Luis Enrique got his era as Barcelona coach off to a winning start as they beat Elche 3-0.
The Catalans had to play the entire second half with 10 men after Javier Mascherano was sent off but they had earlier taken the lead through Messi, who also grabbed the third, with the exciting Munir, 18, scoring just after half-time.
Only six months ago Munir was playing for Barcelona’s Under-18s but announced himself to the world at Camp Nou on his full debut for the first team after finishing the pre-season as the club’s top scorer, with four goals. The youngster was born to Moroccan parents in Madrid but could be the next Barcelona idol, leaving the pitch to a standing ovation after thrilling the crowd with a lively first appearance...
IT IS not the narrative that Catalan separatists hoped for as they face a stand-off with the Madrid government over a planned independence vote in November. Instead of a debate about evil Castilian conquistadors, their cause has been overshadowed by a scandal over a fallen hero, Jordi Pujol, who served for six terms as leader of Catalonia.
Four weeks ago Mr Pujol admitted that his family had hidden money in Switzerland for the past 35 years. “We never found the right moment to declare it,” he said breezily. The confession comes at an awkward time. Mr Pujol’s hand-picked successor as head of his Convergence and Union (CiU) group, and Catalonia’s current leader, Artur Mas, has promised a referendum on November 9th. Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, will ban it. Separatists hoped this would swell their ranks. But now all the talk is of the 84-year-old Mr Pujol, a political giant in his region...
Barcelona will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after Fifa confirmed it will not be able to sign any players in the next two transfer windows.
Fifa announced on Wednesday that it had rejected Barcelona’s appeal against the sanction imposed in April over breaches of rules around the transfer of under-18 players.
The two-window embargo was placed on hold after Barcelona appealed, but Fifa ruled the club will now be unable to register new players in the January and summer 2015 transfer windows.
Fifa said in a statement: “FC Barcelona is to serve a transfer ban which will see the club prevented from registering any players at both national and international level for two complete and consecutive transfer periods, starting with the next registration period (January 2015).”
Players aged under 18 can move to a club in a different country if their parents move there for non-footballing reasons, if they are from another nation within the European Union or European Economic Area and aged between 16 and 18, or if they live within 100km of the club.
“And now, please give a huge ovation for...” A month after Luis Suárez signed for FC Barcelona and two months before he can play a competitive game for them, the Uruguayan made his first appearance at Camp Nou. Barcelona’s record signing ran on to the pitch at 7.51pm to fireworks and applause from around 40,000 supporters. He then played for his new club for the first time, as a substitute against the Mexican side Club León during Barcelona’s traditional season opener, the Gamper Trophy.
Suárez came on with 14 minutes to go, replacing Rafinha. He did not play alongside Lionel Messi or Neymar, both of whom scored in the first half. By the time he made his entry Barcelona had already made nine changes and led 4-0. It was 5-0 moments later and Sandro added a sixth just before the final whistle...
Jordi Pujol, the first democratically elected President of Catalonia after Franco’s death, embodied the economically powerful and politically awkward region of Spain.
The inventor of a popular antibiotic ointment and imprisoned by the Franco government for singing in Catalan and passing out anti-Franco leaflets during Spain’s dictatorship, he combined an astute business sense with hard work and pride in a heritage beloved by Catalans.
“He’s the man that directed the recovery of self-government and he governed Catalonia as a nation, not a region,” says Josep Rull, the recently named general co-ordinator of Convergéncia Democrática de Catalunya (CDC), the centre-right nationalist party that Mr Pujol founded in 1974. “As a thinker and a statist, he will have an important place in history.”
After being elected president, he struck deals with both the rightwing Partido Popular and the left-leaning Socialists to maintain his grip on power, which lasted for 23 years until 2003.
But Mr Pujol’s brand of canny pragmatism suffered a critical blow when he announced on July 25 this year that, for 34 years, he had been keeping undeclared funds outside Spain...
Barcelona have agreed to loan Gerard Deulofeu to Sevilla for the coming season.
The 20-year-old forward, who spent last season on loan at Everton, has been sent to Andalusia in “an operation designed to maximise his participation and optimise his progression as a player”.
Deulofeu is considered to be one of the most promising young talents to recently emerge from Barcelona’s La Masia football academy. He scored four goals in 29 appearances during an impressive stint on Merseyside...
Sid Lowe: The arrival of the Uruguayan is just one change Barcelona have made this summer as they attempt to tinker with their philosophy
Shirt off, wires on, thumbs up: it is the photograph that dominates the summer and it is the same every time, at every club and for every player. The new signing lies on a treatment table in front of a board bearing the sponsor's name, monitors suckered on to his bare chest, and grins. He raises a thumb or, if the photographer is particularly imaginative, two: the crack completes his medical. Like the bombastic presentation, the hospital shot is part of the ritual that every signing performs.
Except one. This year there was a picture missing: the summer's biggest signing was carried out almost clandestinely. "Luis Suárez is entirely our player," said Barcelona's sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta. It appeared an odd remark but this was something he felt needed saying, as if reassurances were required, as if he had to reiterate that, yes, this transfer had really happened. After all, until then the new man had been the invisible man, stuck in a kind of surreal limbo...
With its internationally renowned architecture, a world famous football team and modern infrastructure, Barcelona has become a magnet for tourists, trade fair delegates and sports fans. What Barcelona wants now is not just visitors, but founders who will stay and set up fast-growing technology businesses...
A Yes vote in the Scottish referendum would boost Catalonia’s own independence campaign by paving the way towards international recognition and continued membership of the EU, the Catalan leader told the Financial Times.
In an interview in Barcelona, Artur Mas, president of the Spanish region that is seeking to hold its own independence referendum in November, said: “The first [factor] will be the reaction of European leaders. I am sure they will accept the result of the Scottish referendum. The second is that negotiations will start very quickly between Edinburgh, London and Brussels to keep Scotland within the EU. Both things are very important for Catalonia.”
His comments underline the potential fallout of Scotland’s independence campaign for the rest of Europe, and in particular for Spain and Catalonia.
The Spanish region has long looked to the Scottish referendum as a precedent for its own struggle with Madrid, and has urged the Spanish government to follow the UK example and allow a popular vote on the region’s political future. The Spanish government insists, however, that a Catalan independence referendum is illegal, and has vowed to use all its powers to prevent the November vote.
“There is no reaction in Madrid apart from saying ‘no’ to everything,” Mr Mas said. He contrasted the UK approach with that of the Spanish government, and accused Madrid of “putting democracy at risk”.
Asked about the economic cost of a Spanish break-up, the Catalan leader conceded that “any independence process has its cost”. But he stressed the region’s willingness to negotiate a smooth transition: “We understand we have to share a significant part of the Spanish debt. We also have to share a significant part of the Spanish assets . . . and pension burden.”
He acknowledged that markets had reacted negatively to the recent shift in the Scottish polls, but insisted that investors would quickly adjust to a Yes vote and the creation of an independent state: “Once independence is a reality, everybody in the economy accommodates to the new situation.”
The Spanish government has repeatedly warned that Catalonia would be the main loser of a break-up, claiming the region would find itself outside the EU and the single currency, as well other key international institutions.
But analysts say there is little doubt that a secession would also hurt Spain, depriving the country of a crucial economic engine: Catalonia accounts for almost a fifth of the Spanish economy, and has long served as a base for large foreign corporations and a key destination for foreign investment.
Mr Mas said he was “very determined” to push ahead with the November referendum, pointing out that Catalans were overwhelmingly in favour: “This is not the whim of some leader in Catalonia. This is the popular sentiment, and political leaders have to try to channel it in the best possible way.”...
From Mr Josep Manuel Suàrez.
Sir, A letter you published on August 21, “Bias in favour of Catalan language”, contains a number of mistakes that we feel are serious enough to merit a response.
First of all, the letter says that the government of Catalonia has nine TV channels. The reality is that it has four. In addition, regular audience share statistics show that the majority of TV viewers in Catalonia watch Spanish language channels. Second, the letter claims that the newspapers in Catalonia “are predominately written in Catalan”. This statement is also incorrect, as the majority of newspapers sold in Catalonia are written in Spanish. The letter criticises the Catalan education system and the number of hours taught in Catalan versus those taught in Spanish. The government of Catalonia, as any sensible government would, believes that it is academic results that are most important, not the number of hours one is taught in one language or another. It is also a fact that recent national test results show that students in Catalonia do far better in Spanish language tests than the national average across Spain.
The letter does contain some correct information: Catalan is now a minority language in its own territory. Imagine if English were the mother tongue of only one-third of the UK population. Wouldn’t it then be logical, as in the case of Catalonia, for the UK government to adopt measures to preserve and promote English? Moreover in Catalonia the language protection measures have been the political will expressed by voters in every election since 1980.
Josep Manuel Suàrez, Head of the Delegation of the Government of Catalonia to the UK.
A RECENT Johnson column on the treatment of Catalan sparked hundreds of comments. My colleague argued in favour of multilingualism in Spain on the grounds that speakers of Castilian Spanish should be “proud to learn their country’s other languages”. This post will offer a different proposition: though this form of multilingualism is clearly useful, it may be more valuable for Spaniards to concentrate on learning languages spoken outside their own country.
Given that there are roughly as many speakers of Catalan as there are of Swedish, Castilian speakers considering how best to use their language-learning time might prefer to focus on a tongue that yields broader opportunities. Spain is still re-orienting its economy towards export competitiveness and away from over-investment in housing: France and Germany are its largest export markets and English remains the default language for international business. Yet the number of Spaniards able to speak English, German or French fluently is not high. They are moderately proficient in English, according to Education First’s (EF) index, which puts them at the lower end of the spectrum compared with other Europeans.
With unemployment stuck above 20%, many Spaniards are making the effort to gain additional skills or to take advantage of the EU’s free movement of labour. Castilian speakers may well feel that learning Catalan does not provide the benefits of studying English, French or German—or indeed Portuguese, Arabic or Chinese.
Disentangling language and separatism
But if Castilian speakers are loth to learn Catalan, the national government still has to find ways to address the linguistic elements of the Catalan separatist movement. The push for Catalan independence has cultural and linguistic roots, even as its rise coincides with a particularly dreadful time for Spain’s economy...
A senior leader of the Catalan independence movement has warned Spain that it faces a backlash from international investors – and renewed market pressure over its debt load – if it refuses to allow an independence referendum in the northern region.
The remarks by Oriol Junqueras, the leader of the Catalonia’s Esquerra Republicana party, mark a new escalation in the simmering conflict over the region’s political future. They are designed to raise pressure on Madrid by linking the independence debate directly to what the government of Mariano Rajoy regards as its principal achievement to date – lifting Spain out of recession and winning back the trust of international investors.
“The Spanish state has €1tn of debt. This debt will have to be paid with our taxes, so I don’t believe that the best way for the Spanish state to meet its financial obligations is to clash with its own citizens,” Mr Junqueras told the Financial Times in an interview.
“If I was an investor I would be more calm knowing that there is an independent Catalonia that is ready to comply with its obligations than having a kingdom of Spain that is in confrontation with its own citizens.”
The Catalan government has promised to hold an independence referendum in November, less than two months after the Scottish plebiscite over a possible break with the UK. Unlike the British government, however, Madrid has insisted that a regional vote on independence is illegal, and that the Catalan referendum will not go ahead.
The looming clash has so far failed to dent investor enthusiasm for Spain, which has seen yields on sovereign bonds fall to historic lows as well as impressive stock market gains over the past two years. But some bankers and business leaders warn privately that the Catalan stand-off could damage confidence in Spain’s nascent economic recovery, a concern that Mr Junqueras now seems keen to turn to Catalonia’s advantage...
Sir, Certainly, the wrongdoings – tax fraud at the very least – of the former Catalan president Jordi Pujol (“Catalonia’s shame, a stain on Spain”, editorial, August 13) are causing quite a stir regarding the argument over Catalan independence. But to expect that the scandal will foster “a more sophisticated debate about the appropriate balance of power between Spain’s regions and its central government” from those who are “rubbing their hands in glee” is, as far as Catalonia is concerned, simply unrealistic.
Will Mariano Rajoy “take advantage of this moment of Convergència’s relative weakness to engage with Artur Mas’s latest proposals on regional financing and education policies”? I don’t think so. With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that Mr Rajoy will yet again miss out on the opportunity to engage constructively with Mr Mas on any proposal on regional financing, education policies and the political status of Catalonia whatsoever. The Spanish premier won’t concede to any of Catalonia’s demands, however blatantly legitimate they may be, as this would be widely regarded across Spain as yielding to so-called “Catalan blackmail”.
If anything, Mr Rajoy will profit from Mr Pujol’s scandal, as it will undermine Convergència in favour of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, the 80-odd-year-old, ever-advocating-independence Catalan party, thus pushing independentistas further towards a unilateral declaration of independence...
In less than a month, Scotland will decide whether or not it wants independence. But will the referendum have an impact across Europe? Metro looks at the other states who want their own rule.
O flower of Scotland, when will we see your like again?
Perhaps a lot sooner than you might expect. Scots will go to the polls next month to decide on their country’s future, but the referendum on independence could spark similar moves in other countries.
Across Europe, independence fever is spreading – from Scotland to Spain, from Cornwall to Catalonia. The eyes of nationalists in several nations will be on Scotland’s referendum on September 18.
‘It’s being followed very closely in Spain, notably in Catalonia,’ said Michael Keating, professor of politics at the University of Aberdeen and director of the ESRC Scottish Centre on Constitutional Change.
‘That’s the place in Europe where there’s most interest in what’s happening in Scotland because the Catalan government is proposing a referendum of their own.’...
The Barcelona coach, Luis Enrique, has confirmed Luis Suárez will make his debut in Monday night’s friendly against the Mexican side León.
The Uruguay forward had been forced to train away from his new team-mates after completing a £75m move to the Catalan club in July, due to the four-month ban incurred for biting the Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.
However, he now has two group sessions under his belt after the Court of Arbitration for Sport relaxed the ”excessive” elements of the suspension, and Enrique plans to hand the 27-year-old some game time on Monday...
In just over a month's time, a country that probably doesn't want independence from another will get a vote on whether to separate, and a fiercely autonomous region elsewhere that almost certainly does want to secede from a larger nation won't be allowed to. Such is Europe in 2014.
By 19 September, if scores of polls are to be believed, the question of self-determination for Scotland will be buried for generations. Not a single census on how Scots will vote in the first plebiscite on independence has suggested that they will support their government and create arguably the greatest constitutional crisis the UK has ever known.
Meanwhile, just over 1,000 miles away, the regional administration in Barcelona, which can point to a wealth of evidence to suggest that Catalans would at least like the opportunity to express their opinion, will continue to be frustrated. A week before the referendum in Scotland, hundreds of thousands, perhaps as many as a million, are again expected on the streets of Barcelona to demand that their voice be heard. And as before, the government in Madrid will likely ignore them...
SPANIARDS call a chat between two people unwilling to listen to each other a conversation between besugos—the grimacing, pop-eyed sea bream. The description often suits their politicians’ discussions, but perhaps not for much longer. With Spain’s traditional parties in decline and Catalan separatism on the rise, they may soon be forced into a proper dialogue.
The prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, missed one chance to start such a discussion when he met Catalonia’s regional president, Artur Mas, on July 30th. Catalonia’s regional parliament, where Mr Mas’s Convergence and Union (CiU) coalition is propped up by the separatist Catalan Republican Left (ERC), plans to pass a law in early September setting a non-binding referendum on independence for November 9th. Mr Rajoy, who wants to ban the referendum, will ask judges to declare it unconstitutional. That would force Mr Mas to square a circle: he has pledged both to stay within the law and to consult Catalans on independence.
One way out might be to bring forward regional elections, though the ERC would probably win as more extreme parties snatch votes off moderates like the Socialists. The latter propose a “third way” solution of greater federalism that is gaining traction with voters across Spain. If, however, Scotland votes for independence from the United Kingdom in its referendum on September 18th, that would provide a precedent in the European Union and boost Catalans’ separatist passions...
Luis Suarez's four-month ban for biting an opponent has been upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).
But the Uruguay striker, 27, can now train and play in friendly matches, with new club Barcelona confirming: "He will join the first team's training session, scheduled for Friday.
The public presentation of Suarez as a new Barcelona player will be held on Monday at the Camp Nou."
It is not known if he will play in Monday's game with Mexico's Club Leon.
A full explanation of the Cas ruling, which still prevents him from playing "organised" matches but now allows him to take part in all "football-related activities", will be published at a later date...
Jonathan Wilson: In 1997-2000 the present managers of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Chelsea, Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and Southampton were all either playing or working at Camp Nou
In 1997, Louis van Gaal arrived at Barcelona. He had initially been approached to be youth coordinator but with Bobby Robson’s side struggling in the league – despite winning both the Copa del Rey and the Cup Winners’ Cup – he was asked to take over as manager, with Robson taking on an ambassadorial role, becoming, as he put it “the world’s highest-paid scout”.
On Robson’s recommendation, Van Gaal took on José Mourinho, who had become far more than a translator, to be his “third assistant”. In his midfield, he had Pep Guardiola and Luís Enrique. A year later, Phillip Cocu joined the midfield and Ronald Koeman arrived as an assistant coach. Frank de Boer was signed the year after that. Or, to put it another way, in 1999-2000, the present managers of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Chelsea, Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and Southampton were all either playing or working at Camp Nou.
The story is told of a senior British sports writer seeing Van Gaal at a dinner. A huge fan, he dashed over. “This man,” he said to his wife, by way of introduction, “is one of the greatest coaches of all time. He invented modern football.” Alarmed he may have gone too far, he looked at Van Gaal in embarrassment. Van Gaal just nodded...