Jonathan Powell was Tony Blair’s chief of staff from 1994 to 2007 and the chief government negotiator in Northern Ireland from 1997 to 2007.

NYR DAILY

How to Solve the Catalan Crisis

People gesturing at a giant screen broadcasting Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Barcelona, October 27, 2017

Catalonia does not have a right under international law to unilaterally declare independence from Spain. But if it becomes clear that a large part of the people, possibly a majority, favor independence, then the only sensible thing for Madrid to do is to hold a dialogue with the leaders of that region. Negotiations do not imply that the government is going to accept independence, any more than the British government accepted a united Ireland in the Good Friday negotiations. The conservative government in Madrid, however, has always refused any such dialogue.