Spaniards pack Colon Square in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain. Paul White AP Photo
Spaniards pack Colon Square in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain. Paul White AP Photo

Business

The Latest: Spain minister warns of Catalan business exodus

The Associated Press

October 07, 2017 8:51 AM

BARCELONA, Spain

The Latest on Spain's political crisis amid Catalonia's push for independence (all times local):

5:50 p.m.

Spain's Minister of Public Works Inigo de la Serna says more companies will leave Catalonia amid fears over the regional government's secession plans.

De la Serna tells National Public Radio that "the companies will keep leaving and it's exclusively the fault of the members of the regional government."

Catalonia's two major banks, CaixaBank and Banco Sabadell, energy giant Gas Natural and the company that provides Barcelona's water have decided in recent days to move their headquarters to other parts of Spain.

Other companies are reportedly considering such a move to ensure that Catalonia's possible secession wouldn't immediately knock them out of the European Union and its lucrative common market.

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3:20 p.m.

Spanish media say the company that provides water for Barcelona, Agbar, is the latest major company in Catalonia to announce that it's relocating its headquarters due to secession fears.

Europa Press news agency and other Spanish media reports that Agbar's board decided to relocate its headquarters to Madrid temporarily until the political conflict in Catalonia is resolved.

Catalonia's two major banks, CaixaBank and Banco Sabadell, as well energy giant Gas Natural had already decided in recent days to move their headquarters to other parts of Spain.

Other companies are also considering such a move to ensure that Catalonia's possible secession from Spain wouldn't immediately knock them out of the European Union and its lucrative common market.

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12:45 p.m.

Thousands are gathering at simultaneous rallies in Madrid and Barcelona in a call for dialogue amid a political crisis caused by Catalonia's secession push.

People dressed in white gathered in both the Spanish capital of Madrid and in the Catalan city of Barcelona under the slogan "Shall We Talk?" in a message to Spain's politicians.

Organizers of the rallies had asked people to not bring any flags, neither Spanish nor Catalan, and to wear white clothes.

At the same time in Madrid there was another rally in support of Spanish unity and against Catalan independence.

The rallies comes six days after Catalonia held a referendum on secession that Spain's government calls illegal and the country's top court has suspended. Catalan authorities say the "Yes" vote for secession won by a landslide, although less than half of the electorate voted.

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12:20 p.m.

Thousands of Spaniards are rallying in Madrid to show their support for a united Spain and protest against a push for independence by the northeastern region of Catalonia.

The crowds have turned Plaza de Colon in a sea of Spanish flags, with some jumping into a fountain and dancing.

The rally comes six days after Catalonia held a referendum on secession that Spain's government warned was illegal and the country's top court had suspended.

Separatists lawmakers in Catalonia are now mulling over whether to unilaterally declare independence, a move that would thrust Spain into a national emergency.

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10:50 a.m.

A member of Catalonia's separatist-led government has called for a "cease-fire" with Spain to decrease tensions after a disputed referendum on independence by the prosperous region.

Santi Vila, Catalonia's regional chief for business, told Cadena SER Radio late Friday that he's pushing for "a new opportunity for dialogue" under "a cease-fire" with Spanish authorities.

Vila says he is against Catalonia unilaterally declaring independence at this moment and wants to see a committee of experts from both sides be created to work toward a solution to the political crisis.

Separatists say they won the Oct. 1 referendum, but Spain says the vote was illegal, invalid and unconstitutional. Less than half of the electorate cast ballots in the referendum which has marred by a brutal police crackdown.

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