Catalan lawmakers voted Friday to declare independence from Spain but Madrid immediately moved to quash the breakaway bid in a sharp escalation of a crisis that has caused jitters in secession-wary Europe. As tens of thousands of pro-independence activists gathered outside, the regional parliament in Barcelona passed a resolution to “declare Catalonia an independent state in the form of a republic”.

Demonstrators broke out in ecstatic cheers and shouts of: “Independence!” as the vote count was announced, while MPs inside cheered, clapped and embraced before breaking out in the Catalan anthem. Urging Spaniards to “remain calm” as the country headed into the unknown, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy insisted that “the rule of law will restore legality in Catalonia”. Rajoy has called a crisis meeting of his cabinet for Friday evening, as the European Union and the United States voiced their support for a united Spain. READ MORE