FORMER Catalan president Carles Puigdemont is “absolutely ready” to stand in next May’s European Parliament elections, but only as the second candidate on a joint, pro-independence ticket headed by his former vice-president.

He said that he and his Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) group, were willing to join with the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), whose leader Oriol Junqueras is among the pro-independence politicians who have been locked up without trial for more than a year.

Speaking on public broadcaster Catalunya Radio, Puigdemont said: “I do not want to be candidate in the European election, I would only consider it if I was number two on a Junqueras-led ticket.”

He said bringing together all strands of the independence movement – including former MP Anna Gabriel, from the left-wing CUP – would have “unbeatable potential”.

She also sought refuge from the Spanish justiciary last year and is living in Switzerland.

During the interview, from his own exile in Waterloo, Belgium, Puigdemont said: “If we predict the idea of maximum unity and effort, we must practice it.”

In the past the ERC has been reluctant to support joint tickets, working on the premise that separate candidacies can gather the maximum votes for indy-leaning parties.

Junqueras told his party in a letter in September that he will run in the European election to defend his “political rights and keep fighting”. He wrote: “Running in the European election is the best way to avoid the repression that they want to impose upon us.”

In his interview, Puigdemont said that Pedro Sánchez, who replaced Mariano Rajoy as Spanish prime minister, represented no substantial change from his predecessor.

“The recipe of Pedro Sánchez seems disappointingly similar to that of Mariano Rajoy,” he said.

If Sanchez adhered to his public statements regarding the crime of rebellion being outdated, Puigdemont said he should have made sure the allegation was withdrawn.

His remarks came as Sánchez was ridiculed on social media for calling on Theresa May to hold a second referendum on EU membership, despite refusing to sanction a self-determination poll in Catalonia.

He told “If I was Theresa May, I would call a second referendum – no doubt.”

Sánchez said Brexit would be painful for Britain and the remaining members of the EU, adding that “it isn’t democratic to decide to leave the EU with 51% support”.

On Twitter, he was offered advice on becoming a professional hypocrite: “1- Deny people a referendum; 2- Have your prosecutor ask for 177 years of jail for your political opponents for organising a referendum; 3- Ask for a referendum on a matter you like while demonising referendums,” and accused of absurdity.

Lawyer Ben Emmerson, who is taking the Catalan political prisoners’ cases to the UN Court of Human Rights, tweeted: “So how can he justify opposing a second referendum on independence for Catalonia? Why does he sit on hands whilst the true Catalan democrats are imprisoned?”