The Wikipedia page on the Catalan independence referendum couldn't be more confusing if it was written in hieroglyphics.

In the aftermath of the referendum, what are the plausible and likely possible outcomes, if it's a yes, and if it's a no?

Can't Spain just kind of say .... "nah", no matter what? Is there any reason to conduct the referendum, if it is likely that Spain will deny that it is valid even if the vote is for independence?

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    "What is going to happen" requires knowledge of the future, so it is unanswerable. Try to make the question less opinion based (maybe something like "Would the Spanish government be legally forced to grant independence if the Catalan referendum results in a yes?" would be more to the tune of what you want).
    – SJuan76
    Sep 12, 2017 at 8:05
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    How in the world is it "unanswerable" just because it happens in the future??? By that logic, I bet you think the pros and consequences of Brexit are also off-limit, because "that's in the future"? Seriously, dumbest comment I've seen in a while.
    – Garlic
    Sep 12, 2017 at 8:16
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    The direct pros and cons (as evaluated today) are answerable in the base of current knowledge (for example "Brexit implies that the UK has no working commercial treaties" or "Independence means no EU membership") but beyond that ("will new commercial treaties be better or worse than the EU ones?" or "Will the EU admit Catalonia as new member") is unknowledgeable and off-topic. But "What is going to happen" requires a) knowing if the referendum will happen b) knowing its result c) knowing the reaction of many actors to it and d) whatever unknown, unforeseen event happens in the meantime.
    – SJuan76
    Sep 12, 2017 at 8:33
  • "More generally, what is the point of it?" You mean, do Catalans really want to be independent? I guess the point of it is to find that out, although some people say that nobody would call for a referendum if he/she wouldn't be quite sure to win it. So I guess the reason is more to get a better negotiation position for ... better paid politicians jobs in Barcelona, ...? The future will tell. Sep 12, 2017 at 11:17
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    @ohwilleke Even if it were reopened, it would be closed again as a duplicate, per what notstoreboughtdirt said
    – Machavity
    Sep 12, 2017 at 22:47

2 Answers 2


Nobody knows what will happen, but since the national government sees the whole referendum as illegal, chances are slim they will suddenly change their mind afterwards and grant independence. So from their point of view, nothing is supposed to happen, referendum or no referendum.

If the referendum yields a no, nothing will happen anyway, apart from the independence movement trying to find new ways to reach their goal, I guess.

If it yields a yes, nothing will happen initially either, because the national government won't accept the legality of the referendum. Afterwards, however, things might happen, ranging from Catalan people just being very disgruntled to a full-out civil war / independence war. It seems this will mainly depend on how far the Catalunians are willing to go. If they declare independence without Spain's consent, I doubt that Spain will sit idle, but the real question is, are they willing to risk war?

If I were a betting man, I wouldn't put my money on Catalunia going that far, but hey, predicting the future is a tough job.

  • It's just speculation, but I guess the Catalans would settle for sending less money and more autonomy to the rest of Spain. The IndyRef is mostly a means to gain negotiation power. Sep 12, 2017 at 11:13
  • According to the Spanish Constitution, the referendum is illegal. Therefore, it has no validity.
    – Peppo
    Sep 12, 2017 at 11:51
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    @Peppo If things were that simple, Americans would still be British subjects.
    – user5155
    Sep 12, 2017 at 13:26
  • @Jeff Lambert I'm not saying if it can or can not be done. But the Spanish government is not going to cede territory for an unrecognized referendum. First, the referendum has to comply with rules: minimum participation, percentage of approval, actual population census ...
    – Peppo
    Sep 12, 2017 at 14:50
  • For the record, the referendum vote was "Yes"
    – CDspace
    Oct 2, 2017 at 0:21

By definition, a referendum of independence is only useful if it's accorded by the two parts, the one who wants to secede and the one they want to secede from, since both agreed to respect the results of the referendum. An unilateral referendum can be met with an unilateral non-recognition of its results.

The thing is, Spain doesn't even want the referendum to happen, and so they are trying to prevent it. What will happen in any case can not be predicted in advance, nor the final outcome of the whole process. It will depend on too many things; it the referendum is held or not, how it is prevented if so, what is the result if not and what are the next movements from both Catalan and Spanish governments and society. We're truly in the kingdom of the unknown.

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