Secession in Liberal-Democratic Contexts: Lessons from Catalonia

This paper aims to show that secession, especially if unilateral, is difficult in contexts of liberal democracy. Obstacles and difficulties to consensual secession will be distinguished from those of unilateral secession, emphasising the harshness of the latter in light of the Catalan experience. With regard to consensual secession, several constitutional models will be ordered along a sort of spectrum of legal barriers. With respect to unilateral secession, many difficulties and problems will be addressed, such as polarisation, non-recognition, coercion, anarchy and legal uncertainty. Three strategies will be analysed to tackle these issues, namely domestication, perseverance and drama. Although a combination of all three is expected in the world of facts, domestication and perseverance should prevail over drama in the normative realm of liberal democracy. The strategy of drama ought to be limited or restrained in contemporary democracies. Drama is contagious and can backfire.