Spain is left without an ambassador in London a month after the consummation of Brexit and at a key moment in bilateral relations between the two countries. The Council of Ministers confirmed the dismissal of diplomat Carlos Bastarreche, who retired in November when he turned 70 but agreed to continue temporarily in office until the appointment of his replacement. Although the Government initially communicated that Bastarreche would continue in his post until the replacement took place, the truth is that at the time of his departure it is still unknown who will take his place. The Minister Counselor of the Spanish Embassy in London, Jose Maria Fernandez Lopez de Turismo, a philologist by training, will be provisionally in charge of the diplomatic delegation.
The government’s lack of foresight has been in evidence during this particular period of “transition”. Almost three months after Ambassador Bastarreche reached the maximum age to hold office, his position remains up in the air. In clear contrast, the British Government usually appoints its ambassador to Spain six months before the replacement takes place, to give him time to carry out the transfer and take the measure of office.
The delay in the appointment of the new ambassador in London – one of the most greedy positions in the diplomatic career – may be due to the express desire of the Government to give greater relevance to the position, after the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU and in light of the need to strengthen bilateral relations.
Diplomatic sources confirm that until now, women’s names have been considered mainly as possible successors. Bastarache could be relieved by what could be the first Spanish ambassador in London, with the Secretary of State for International Cooperation Ángeles Moreno or the Secretary of State for Commerce Xiana Méndez among the candidates.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs Arancha Gonzalez Laya is also considering other names such as the current ambassador to Malta, Consuelo Femenía, or the Secretary of State for Sports Irene Lozano. Gonzalez Laya has been criticized previously for taking too long to decide appointments.
In the case of London, the delay in the departure of Carlos Bastarreche (Madrid, 1950) was initially justified by the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020. Bastarache had arrived at the position in 2017, with the experience acquired as Ambassador Permanent Representative of Spain to the European Union until 2010 and as Ambassador to France until 2014. He replaced Federico Trillo after a particularly turbulent period at the embassy.
Bastarache maintained a lower political profile, held his position with the change of government, and was focused almost exclusively on Brexit.The successive delays since November have created a certain tension in the embassy in London, where it is still unknown how long it will take to name the successor or successor. After his name is made public in the BOE, the transfer rarely occurs before a month, so the diplomatic headquarters in London can remain without an ambassador at least until March.