After weeks of precarious political division, both sides in Spain's tense political standoff have backed themselves into corners of their own making, and despite repeated attempts to prolong and prevaricate, have been forced by escalating circumstances to pursue two extreme forms of action.
The Parlament de Catalunya voted through a motion on Friday afternoon calling for the Catalan government to secede fully from Spain to form a new republic. The Catalan President Carles Puigdemont had not wanted to make this unilateral declaration alone, having suspended the force of a previous declaration several weeks ago to allow for talks with Madrid that never came. And even on Friday he hoped to provide greater political cover for himself by encouraging a slim majority of the regional assembly to be complicit in the decision.
The motion urged the Catalan executive to draw up fresh laws, and allowed for an extended process of negotiations with the Spanish government in Madrid. The latter may smack of wishful thinking, but when it passed, parliamentarians in Barcelona stood to clap.
Resounding applause had also greeted Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy hours earlier on Friday morning, when he had addressed the Spanish Senate in Madrid. He told the parliament's upper chamber, dominated by members of his Partido Popular, that the Catalan leadership had made a mockery of democracy and that there was no alternative but to continue with efforts to stop the secession movement in its tracks. He insisted that ordinary Catalans must be protected from what he termed, "an intolerant minority that is awarding itself ownership of Catalonia, and is trying to subject all Catalans to the yoke of its own doctrine."