UK 'in-out' referendum to dominate EU summit
Published 15/02/2016 | 02:30
With the General Election here set to dominate the domestic news agenda for the coming week, the British vote on whether to withdraw from the European Union is likely to top the agenda when European leaders gather in Brussels on Thursday for a much-anticipated two-day summit.
UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond said Britain's push to win backing from its European partners for its wish list of EU reforms would go "right to the wire" at the summit this week.
"There isn't a deal yet, there is a working draft, there are lots of moving parts and we have got a negotiation that will run through this week, and I have no doubt it will run right to the wire," he said.
British prime minister David Cameron is hoping to return from the summit in Brussels with a package of reforms that he can then take to the British people in a referendum on whether to remain in the EU.
If he gets what he wants and is able to put the package to the British voters, it is likely that the poll could take place as soon as June.
British and EU negotiators have already broadly agreed much of a reform package, but tricky political issues, notably on migration, are still outstanding.
The campaign to remain in the bloc stepped up a gear yesterday when the boss of airline EasyJet said Britain's membership of the EU was the reason that the cost of flights had plummeted, while the range of destinations had soared.
Elsewhere, European Central Bank president Mario Draghi is due to speak at the European Parliament's economic committee in Brussels today, where the bank's quantitative-easing programme, inflationary targets and growth forecasts are all likely to dominate discussions.
Germany's constitutional court is due to hold a hearing tomorrow in a lawsuit against the ECB's Outright Monetary Transactions programme, a so far never-used bond-buying backstop that was announced in 2012. The hearing is sure to be keenly followed by ECB watchers.
Closer to home, data on goods exports and imports will be published by the Central Statistics Office today. On Thursday, the latest Consumer Price Index will be released.
Alan McQuaid of Merrion Stockbrokers said he expected a modest overall increase of 0.3pc in the CPI for this year.