October 4, 2017 / 7:31 AM / 10 months ago

Daily Briefing: Catalonia - King's speech and defiance

LONDON (Reuters) - Spain's democracy is being tested as never before by the Catalonia crisis, which intensified overnight with a rare intervention by the king criticising the separatists, and a defiant pledge to push forward with a unilateral declaration of independence from the region's leader.

Patrons in a restaurant watch as Spanish King Felipe makes a televised address to the nation in Barcelona, Spain, October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman

As expected, the police violence at the weekend has only exacerbated matters, making it harder for the pro-independence camp to seek compromises and leading to criticism abroad of PM Mariano Rajoy. Yet ultimately, who outside of Spain would be ready to give the necessary international support to a Catalan state?

For one thing, Brussels will not want to encourage dormant separatist movements elsewhere in the region. Undaunted, today the Catalan parliament is expected to agree on a date for a plenary session to declare independence. Expect also the first European Parliament debate on the stand-off.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is pictured in her hotel room as she prepares her conference speech that she will deliver to her party's annual conference, tomorrow, in Manchester Central conference center, in Manchester, Britain, October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Christopher Furlong/ Pool

While the opposition Labour Party’s conference last week was surprisingly jubilant, the UK’s ruling Conservative Party will be relieved to wrap up today one of its most depressingly dull conferences in recent years.

Blame the lingering dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Theresa May - who by consensus is still in post largely because there is no viable contender - plus the backstabbing antics of her ministers on either side of the deep-and-special vs clean-and-glorious Brexit debate.

May gives her closing speech today: can she send the party faithful back to their constituencies with any sense of purpose?

Today’s big number is most likely the UK September PMI figure for the giant services sector due at 0830 GMT. After yesterday’s shocker from the construction industry knocked sterling back, investors will wonder whether more bad news is in store in this much bigger area of the UK economy. Analyst expectations are for the index to hold steady vs August.

editing by John Stonestreet

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