Catalan leader Artur Mas: wants independence. | Jaume Sellart


Spain's Catalonia region will be automatically booted out of the euro zone and its banks will lose access to European Central Bank facilities if it becomes independent from the rest of country, the Spanish central bank chief said yesterday.

Polls suggest Catalan separatists are on track to win a small majority of seats in the Catalan parliament at the regional election on Sunday, the minimum needed to launch a “road map” to secession within 18 months, according to Artur Mas, the Catalonian president.

“The exit from the euro is automatic, the exit from the European Union is implied,” Bank of Spain chief Luis Maria Linde said during an event in Madrid. Uncertainties and tensions over the election are affecting Catalan and other Spanish banks, Linde said, echoing worries by major lenders which have said that a split with Catalonia would threaten financial stability in the region.

Scottish voters faced similar warnings of a possible exit from the whole EU if they had chosen independence from the United Kingdom in a referendum a year ago. That vote, which has been followed by a rise in separatist sentiment, was closely watched in Spain.

Asked what the probability was of a freeze on bank deposits if Catalonia declared itself independent, Linde said this was highly unlikely although there was a risk.

“It’s clear that if there are serious tensions, there could be a freeze on deposits, as has been seen in Latin America and in Greece. In that respect it’s a possibility, a risk,” he said.