October 18, 2017 / 8:02 PM / a year ago

Catalonia to formally declare independence if Spain suspends regional autonomy: source

Protesters hold banners, candles and wave flags during a protest against the decision of the Spanish High Court to remand in custody two Catalan separatist leaders Jordi Sanchez of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium's Jordi Cuixart in Barcelona, Spain October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Albert Gea

MADRID (Reuters) - Catalonia’s regional president told a meeting of his party he would formally declare independence if Spain starts the process of suspending the region’s autonomy on Thursday, a Catalan government source said on Wednesday.

Madrid has given Thursday as a deadline for the regional government to back down from a symbolic independence declaration made last week, or face direct rule from the capital.

If Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy moves to apply direct rule on Thursday, it will take between three and five days for regional autonomy to be effectively suspended.

Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Jesus Aguado and Julien Toyer

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