IF there was any hope that Spain’s new government would signal a change in direction towards the crisis in Catalonia, it was dashed yesterday when Spanish police raided several Catalan government offices and arrested two people for questioning.

Their targets were the Catalan economy department, the Statistical Institute of Catalonia (Idescat) and the Telecommunications and IT Centre (CTTI).

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The raids were ordered by the Barcelona court building the case against those who helped stage the October independence referendum, which had been declared illegal – and invoked memories of similar action when then-PM Mariano Rajoy imposed direct rule on the state. Around 30 people are currently under investigation.

The police action came as the Spanish Supreme Court cut a jail term of more than six years for King Felipe’s brother-in-law to five years and 10 months for charges including tax fraud and embezzlement.

Inaki Urdangarin was found guilty and sentenced in February last year for using royal connections to overcharge regional governments through public contracts to stage sports and tourist events, and with tax fraud.

Urdangarin – who appealed against the sentence yesterday – lives with Princess Cristina and their four children in Switzerland.

The original ruling by a provincial court in Mallorca came after a six-year investigation and amid a slew of corruption cases against politicians and public figures.

One of these ended with the jailing of dozens of high-ranking People’s Party (PP) politicians and a vote of no-confidence against party leader and then-PM Rajoy. He lost the no-confidence motion and was ousted to be replaced by Socialist Pedro Sanchez.

Meanwhile, Catalan president Quim Torra has written to European heads of government saying he is willing to negotiate with Spain.

Torra said: “There is no better expression of dialogue and debate than that which culminates with an absolute respect for each person’s freedom to express themselves, think and decide everything.

“We share the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, pacifism, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of people which belong to minorities, which are based on the European Union.”

Civil servants in Barcelona yesterday staged a demonstration in support of jailed and exiled politicians and public figures, including Clara Ponsati.