Carles Puigdemont’s decision to hand himself over to the Belgian authorities is probably the moment of no return for his leadership both of Catalonia and of the Catalan independence movement.
Ever since he called his misguided and illegal independence referendum Puigdemont has increased looked like a man with no cards to play.
His bluff that the Spanish government would legitimise his bid for independence by letting the independence referendum go ahead and talking to him following its announced result was exposed as empty when the Spanish government did no such thing.
His idea that the EU would ride to his rescue if he swore allegiance to it – as Slovenia did in 1991 – also proved to be totally wrong.
The extent of his miscalculations is best exposed by his bizarre decision to flee to Brussels – the capital of the European Union – in the strange belief that a personal appeal to the EU’s leadership would win him their support.
In the event they refused to talk to him, and with prospects of an asylum application vanishing (a forlorn hope if ever there was one) and with the Spanish authorities issuing a European warrant for his arrest, he had nowhere to hide and no option but to hand himself in.
A Belgian judge will decide today whether he should be handed over to the Spanish, with the high probability being that the judge will decide that he should be.
I have never been convinced that this was a serious crisis. On the contrary my opinion has always been that the disastrous way in which Puigdemont and the other Catalan independence leaders have conducted themselves would end up by strengthening the Spanish state. So it is turning out.
I think this whole affair has been completely misjudged and I predict that there will be a heavy swing of support back to the Spanish state when the elections happen in Catalonia in December. In my opinion the effect of this debacle will be to put back the cause of Catalan independence for at least a generation.
However what I would say to those who still support the cause of an independent Catalonia – a cause I reiterate that I oppose – is that the one good thing that may come for them out of this affair is that the Catalan independence movement is at least now likely to be rid of a hopelessly incompetent leader.
Should Catalonia one day become independent, it will not be because of Carles Puigdemont.