Spain has a real bullfight on its hands

Who could possibly be surprised that citizens of Spain’s Catalonia province chose independence over remaining part of a country that sent club-wielding police to beat them up and confiscate their ballots?

The referendum on Thursday, which resulted in three separatist parties winning the most seats in Catalonia’s parliament, was a spectacular miscalculation by Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy. He assumed that the rebel province would bow to his wishes and vote to remain part of Spain.

Rajoy must have thought that Catalans would forget what happened last October 1. That’s when another referendum resulted in overwhelming support for independence. Rajoy refused to recognize those elections, and sent Spanish national police to block voting halls, beat up would-be voters who tried to surge past them, and confiscate their ballots. If he thought that would scare off separatists this time around, he gored his own ox. Or, it being Spain, bull.

The growing sentiment across Europe to recognize that its countries are different from one another continues to bloom. The European Union’s attempt to homogenize its member states just isn’t working. Italy is not Germany, Poland isn’t Belgium. And no amount of trying to legislate the maximum curve of cucumbers – which the E.U. actually attempted to impose -- can make them so.

Great Britain, which voted last year to exit the E.U., is being punished for its audacity in its divorce talks with Brussels. That’s partly because Prime Minister Theresa May has wrong-footed herself into a delicate situation that could cost her her hold on No. 10 Downing Street. Earlier this year, May took an election gamble similar to Rajoy’s, betting that British voters would give her Conservative Party a mandate to play tough on Brexit negotiations.

Instead the Tories lost a dozen seats in parliament and were forced into an uncomfortable ruling alliance with a Northern Irish party that can topple the government at any moment. British mediate coverage of May’s travails has been unrelentingly negative, much like President Trump’s treatment in the United States. One consolation: beginning in 2019, Britons will once again be issued the classic blue passports they carried for decades, instead of burgundy documents issued by the E.U.

Spain’s central government will probably prevail over the wishes of the Catalan people. The province’s president, Carles Puigdemont, had to flee the country or face imprisonment for his rebellion. Speaking from Brussels, where he took refuge, Puigdemont said Thursday he’d be willing to start negotiations with Rajoy – just not in Spain. So far, the government in Madrid is pretending there is no bull in the ring.