Spain to block Catalonia independence referendum
The Spanish government has vowed to block plans by parties in Catalonia to hold a referendum on independence on 9 November of next year.
"The poll will not be held," Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon told journalists moments after Catalonia's President, Artur Mas, announced a deal.
Mr Mas said agreement had been reached on the date and on two questions.
Voters would be asked if they wanted Catalonia to be a state and if they wanted it to be an independent state.
Mr Mas announced that an agreement had been reached in principle and had still to be approved formally by the parties internally.
So the Catalan Government has set a date for when it plans to hold a vote in Catalonia, with two questions, the second of which implies, if a majority of people vote "yes", that Catalonia would no longer be part of Spain.
However. the Spanish Popular Party led-government, as well as the main opposition Socialist Party have already said this can not happen.
Catalan pro-independence parties, which hold a majority of parliamentary seats in Catalonia, still sound determined to hold the vote, come what may.
In that case, the vote might more accurately be described as a "popular consultation", as, under the current terms of the Spanish constitution, the result would not be legally binding.
If a majority did vote yes, to both proposed questions (and recent opinion polls are far from clear whether that would the case), then what would happen next in Catalonia is far from clear.
The Catalan government has hinted in the past, that, with popular support, it might be prepared to make a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain, if all other avenues have been exhausted.
Both Spain's ruling conservatives, the Popular Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and the Socialist opposition have long made it clear that they oppose a referendum.
Under the current Spanish constitution, referendums can only be called by the national government in Madrid, not by the governments of Spain's 17 autonomous communities, of which Catalonia is one, the BBC's Tom Burridge reports from Madrid.
Mr Mas has said that "there is time to comply with laws and democratic processes".
But for that to happen, Spain's national parliament would need to approve a change in the Spanish constitution before next November, and that looks impossible given the opposition in Madrid, our correspondent adds.
Catalonia is one of Spain's most developed regions, with a population of 7.5 million.
It already has a wide degree of autonomy but the recent economic crisis has fuelled Catalan nationalism.
In September supporters of independence formed a human chain across the region.
Mr Mas has previously said that if Madrid blocks a referendum, he will turn regional elections - due in 2016 - into a vote on independence.
Opinion polls suggest Catalans are evenly split over independence.
The EU and Nato have warned that Catalonia would be excluded if it broke away from Spain.
Nationalists in another Spanish region, the Basque Country, won regional elections there last year.