Separatists to put Spain's minority government on the ropes

Spain's prime minister could be forced to call an early general election if Catalan separatists reject, as expected, the minority socialist government's 2019 budget in a crucial parliamentary vote.

Barring a last minute deal that touches on the sensitive issue of Catalan self-determination, the separatist lawmakers will join Spain's right-wing opposition in voting against the ruling socialists' spending plan on Wednesday.

Pedro Sanchez became prime minister last year when the Catalans joined the anti-austerity Podemos and other smaller parties in backing a no-confidence vote against his conservative predecessor, Mariano Rajoy.

But Sanchez's socialist party holds only 84 seats in the 350-seat lower house.

Negotiations with the new separatist coalition that took power in the northeastern Catalonia region after the 2017 independence push broke down last week when Sanchez's government refused to accept self-determination talks.