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Spain cancels Gib strategy meeting amid ‘lame duck’ concerns

Spain’s acting PP government has cancelled a meeting of its inter-ministerial working group on Gibraltar, prompting the PSOE to say that the central administration has no interest in how Brexit might impact the Campo de Gibraltar.

The meeting, which should have been held in the Campo this month, was meant to help coordinate Spain’s response to Brexit in the region.

The cancellation was attributed to the fact that Spain’s political parties have proved unable to agree a government despite two general elections in eight months.

It comes as a report in the leading newspaper El Pais on Sunday cited an internal document in which the Ministry for Foreign Affairs said nine months of political vacuum had left Spain like “a permanent lame duck” on the international stage.

Spain’s political leaders have struggled to form a new administration since last December after upstart political parties won widespread support in a general election - forcing several forces, including some traditional rivals, to try and reach pacts.

After the December 20 ballot, a fresh election on June 26 did nothing to resolve the impasse, with all parties, including the conservative PP of acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, falling short of a parliament majority.

Despite continued attempts to form coalitions, the country is lurching towards its third election in a year.

Cancellation of the Campo meeting of the Gibraltar working group came amid growing concern in Spain that the absence of government is impacting negatively on the country’s international standing.

The document prepared by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Madrid, entitled ‘The Cost of No Government’, referred to 40 international treaties that should have been ratified but which could not be progressed because Spain only had an acting government, El Pais reported.

Important international trips by heads of state to Spain had been cancelled, while Spain’s King Felipe had also postponed trips abroad. Bilateral summits had been put on hold and foreign ministries in other countries were increasingly sidelining Spanish diplomats, the report added.

“We are seeing ourselves progressively excluded from those centres of power where the big decisions are taken,” the ministry’s report said, according to El Pais.

Spanish government representatives were being “directly marginalised” at meetings of international and European leaders “because they are unable to make the commitments that have to be made,” the document added.

“Continuing to have an acting government has increasingly serious consequences for Spain’s international projection, stemming from an institutional blockage that presents our country as a permanent lame duck,” the document concluded.

“The limitations of diplomatic action, the loss of profile and capacity to influence, and the brake on being able to take decisions have negative consequences for our international prestige, and direct material costs.”

“Additionally, as a medium-sized power, the spaces that Spain cedes are rapidly occupied by other competing countries.”

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