CATALAN Government ministers were defiant as they started their first day in their new jobs yesterday with self-determination uppermost in their minds as their institutions were apparently freed from the shackles of seven months’ direct rule from Madrid.

Vice president and economy minister, Pere Aragones, told civil servants the restrictions in place since last October under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution would be lifted, although restoring them completely would take time.

However, Jose Luis Abalos, secretary of Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE), said the financial intervention would continue until the “normalisation process” had been completed.

Support from Catalan and Basque nationalist parties helped the PSOE topple Mariano Rajoy last week, but Abalos said there was no “quid-pro-quo” negotiations between the camps. Aragones told Catalan TV the government “won’t give up” its independence aspirations, saying it should have a “bilateral relationship” with the Spanish executive.

He said: “We won’t give up on our right to self-determination. And we are not asking the Spanish government to give up its own principles either.”

Aragones added that negotiations with the Madrid government for concessions on financial issues should not imply renouncing a referendum or debate on Catalonia’s sovereignty: “Catalonia should be able to decide its own future.”

In return for the backing to oust Rajoy, Sanchez said he would retain budget measures proposed by his predecessor, which were of benefit to the Basque country, and that he was willing to engage in a dialogue with Catalonia, something Rajoy had refused to do.

However, he prefers a federal solution that would keep Catalonia within Spain and supported Rajoy’s intervention in Catalonia.

The new premier could also face an early challenge from Rajoy’s People’s Party (PP) after its MPs refused to rule out tabling amendments to the budget in the upper parliamentary house, where they have a majority.

Any attempt to block it would risk creating legislative delays that Sanchez can ill afford.

Calling for a “government to government” meeting with the premier, Catalan president Quim Torra said: “We start from a referendum on self-determination on 1-O [October 1] and on a political declaration of independence, and from there we will move forward. That’s what we will put on the table.”

Sanchez is expected to finalise his cabinet in the coming days, which may include independent ministers.

Torra’s cabinet were adamant over their stance and called for an early meeting with Madrid. Government spokesperson and presidency minister, Elsa Artadi, said: “We should achieve independence using other means, strengthening our society and institutions.”

Damia Calvet, who handles territory and sustainability, said his priority was to “reverse the effects” of direct rule.

“One of the first things that we want to do is defend our Law Against Climate Change, one of the first in the south of Europe.”

This was suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court because of concerns it went beyond the reserved powers of the Catalan administration. He said: “The Spanish government challenged the law when we couldn’t defend ourselves, under Article 155, and we want to restore it.”