Relations between Catalonia's separatist government and Madrid have hit their lowest point in years following an outlawed referendum vote Sunday, deepening a constitutional crisis in Spain.
Political analysts and economists are now questioning what could happen next following the vote in Catalonia, which saw Spanish riot police clash with pro-independence voters, leaving hundreds injured.
Catalan regional government spokesman Jordi Turull told reporters early Monday that 2.26 million people had cast their votes on Sunday with 90 percent of those voting in favor of Catalonia, a wealthy region in north-east Spain, to gain independence. Voter turnout was low, however, at around 42 percent.
The vote had been outlawed by the Spanish government and the Constitutional Court but went ahead anyway despite chaotic and violent scenes of riot police trying to prevent voting from taking place, with reports of rubber bullets being used against crowds and footage showing the police wielding batons against voters. Some Catalans responded by barricading polling stations to prevent the police seizing ballot boxes.
On Monday, the European Commission called for all parties to "now move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue." In a statement on its website, the Commission added that: "Violence can never be an instrument in politics" but also warned that if Catalonia left Spain, "it would find itself outside of the European Union."
Around midday on Monday, the head of the Catalan government Carles Puigdemont said legal action would be brought against those "responsible for violence" during the referendum and he sought the removal of all Spanish police from Catalonia, according to Reuters.
Throwing down the gauntlet to his counterparts in Madrid, he said the referendum result was "binding". He added that he had had no contact with Spain's central government since the vote and asked for international mediation in the region.
A general strike has been called by pro-separatists and unions in Catalonia for Tuesday in protest at what they see as a violation of their rights following the police crackdown.
If Catalonia was to go further and declare itself independent that could push the Spanish government to try to seize control of the Catalan government, according to one political analyst.
"Catalan First Minister Carles Puigdemont has suggested that the regional parliament will declare the independence of Catalonia this week," Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of risk consultancy Teneo Intelligence said in a note Monday.
"This will probably lead Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to activate article 155 of the constitution to temporarily take control of the Catalan government. Aside from the risks associated with sustained protests in the region, the biggest impact of the Catalan issue is still its potential spill over into national politics," he said.