It looks as if Spain will not be getting their man. Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, facing charges of rebellion in Spain, said he would return to Belgium from Germany and continue to campaign for the region’s secession. Earlier this month Spain’s Supreme Court dropped a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont after Germany refused to extradite him for declaring Catalonia an independent state. Puigdemont said he would return to Brussels with his family on Saturday. This is a major blow for Spain and it is also highly embarrassing for the Spanish government.

Former prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who was voted out of office earlier this summer, had made bringing Puigdemont to justice one of his chief priorities as he battled to stop the Catalan push for independence. But in the end it appears unlikely that Puigdemont will have to a face a Spanish court as he settles back to life in Belgium where he will continue to push for Catalan independence. New prime minister Pedro Sanchez has opened talks with the Catalan regional government but although dialogue is taking place, he is also deeply opposed to Catalan independence. Spain’s withdrawal of the arrest warrant offered a clear illustration of the difficulties the country has had trying to persuade its EU partners to cooperate with its attempts to bring former members of Catalonia’s regional government to trial over the secessionist campaign.