16th Feb 2019


UK decision time This WEEK

  • Cameron (l) and Rajoy (r) both face crucial votes for themselves and their country. (Photo: Moncloa)

Europe could be a different place by the end of the week, when results come out in the UK referendum on EU membership.

The vote will be held on Thursday (23 June), but results will trickle in all night long after polling stations close at 10PM local time. The final outcome could be known only in the early hours of Friday.

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  • The influence of the murder of MP Jo Cox on the EU referendum outcome is difficult to anticipate (Photo: Reuters)

A Brexit - a British exit from the EU - is a real possibility, with polls a week ahead of the vote putting the Leave side in the lead.

But the campaign could be affected by the shock killing of Labour MP Jo Cox on Thursday (16 June).

It had not been confirmed on Friday afternoon whether the suspect had affiliations with a neo-Nazi group or whether his motive was that Cox was campaigning for the Remain side.

But her pro-EU and pro-immigration profile gave the murder a political character that might weigh on voters’ minds.

All British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK will be entitled to vote.

UK nationals who live abroad are allowed to vote if they have been registered in the UK in the past 15 years.

First EU reactions

The first EU reactions to the referendum outcome are expected on Friday morning.

The presidents of all EU institutions - the commission's Jean-Claude Juncker, the council's Donald Tusk, the parliament's Martin Schulz and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, whose country is chairing the EU Councils - will meet on Friday morning and might hold a press conference.

Earlier in the morning, Schulz will hold a extraordinary meeting with leaders of the European Parliament's political groups to seek a common line.

In the meantime, the 28 Europe ministers will meet in Luxembourg for a general affairs council to prepare the 28-29 June EU summit, whose main topic will be the consequences of the UK referendum.

In case of Brexit, other meetings could take place to prepare the summit and the first steps of the EU-UK divorce, as well as to calm down financial markets.


Another important event this week will be Spain's general election on Sunday (26 June).

It is the second vote after an election last December failed to produce a clear majority. Both the conservative prime minister Mariano Rajoy and socialist leader Pedro Sanchez failed in their effort to form a government.

Rajoy's Popular Party (PP) could once again finish first but with no majority. He would then depend on the result of centrist party Ciudadanos, with which he could try to strike an alliance.

On the left, radical left party Podemos, led by Pablo Iglesias, is expected to finish ahead of Sanchez's Socialist Party (PSOE). They failed to agree on a coalition after December's election because the PSOE allied with Ciudadanos.

This time Iglesias aims to become prime minister with the help of PSOE. That would be a major change for the EU, as the bloc's fifth economy would be governed by a maverick politician from a party that was created only two years ago to give a political voice to the anti-austerity Indignados movement.

Foreign affairs

Prior to the British and Spanish votes, the EU will carry on its usual business, with a foreign ministers meeting and a European Parliament mini-plenary session.

On Monday (20 June), ministers will in Luxembourg talk about the situation in the Sahel and the EU security and development strategy for the region. They will also discuss the volatile situation in Macedonia and the Middle-East peace process.

Ministers are expected to extend by one year the mandate of naval operation Sophia, designed to address the growing number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean. They should also task it with training the Libyan coastguard and navy and contributing to the implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya.

European Parliament

The Middle East will also be on the agenda in the EU parliament, with visits by the Israeli and Palestinian presidents.

Israel's Reuven Rivlin will address the plenary on Wednesday and Palestine's Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday.

MEPs in the EMIS inquiry committee will hold two hearings on Monday and Tuesday. This is the committee that investigates on how carmakers like Volkswagen tampered engines to cheat emissions tests.

They will hear representatives of the bodies dealing with certificates given before cars are allowed on the market and that take decisions on emissions tests.

Another committee will come closer to inception on Wednesday, when the plenary appoints 65 MEPs to be members of an inquiry on money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion in the wake of the Panama Papers revelations.

Council of Europe

In Strasbourg, the assembly of the Council of Europe will listen to Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko on Monday.

Savchenko was released from a Russian prison where she had been after being abducted in Ukraine in 2014. It will be her first time in the assembly, where she was appointed during her captivity, in January 2015.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras will also address the assembly on Wednesday and participate in a debate with delegates.

Spain's Podemos sees a clear path to power

The anti-austerity party could finish second in the 26 June general election. Its leader Pablo Iglesias is beginning to believe he could be prime minister in a left-wing coalition.

Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK

Brexit talks will continue in Brussels, as UK PM Theresa May's government is trying to find a way out of the political impasse at home. Murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee will speak at the European Parliament next week.

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