Brussels threw its weight behind Spain in the Catalonia crisis yesterday and refused to condemn police for alleged brutality when they tried to stop Sunday’s independence referendum.

The EU said the fall-out from the contentious poll was an ‘internal matter’.

Its refusal to intervene came after a day of violence in the wealthy region where almost 900 voters and protesters were injured.

One woman said her fingers were deliberately broken by national police officers who stormed polling stations.

Video footage showed elderly independence supporters being hit in the face and women dragged by the hair as riot police enforced a Madrid decree to halt the vote.

But officials yesterday said that more than two million people cast a vote, with 90 per cent backing independence.

As the country faced its worst political crisis in decades, Catalonia’s president Carles Puigdemont yesterday urged Brussels to act as a mediator with Madrid.

He said: ‘The European Commission must encourage international mediation. It cannot look the other way any longer.’

His call was rebuffed when the European Commission reiterated its ‘trust’ in Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy and refused to condemn the behaviour of Civil Guard officers. It cited a statement that ‘violence can never be an instrument in politics’.

A spokesman for commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who spoke to Mr Rajoy yesterday, said: ‘Under the Spanish constitution, yesterday’s vote in Catalonia was not legal. For the European Commission, as president Juncker has reiterated repeatedly, this is an internal matter for Spain that has to be dealt with in line with the constitutional order of Spain.

‘We call on all relevant players to move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue.’

The commission also warned that any potential independence vote would see the state placed outside the EU. European Council president Donald Tusk urged Mr Rajoy to ‘avoid further escalation and use of force’ yesterday.