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Saturday, February 20, 2016, 12:15

Britain's Cameron hails EU deal

By Xinhua

Britain's Cameron hails EU deal
British Prime Minister David Cameron arrives for an EU summit at the EU Council building in Brussels on Feb 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

BEIJING/BRUSSELS - British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday sealed a deal for "special status" in the European Union (EU) after marathon talks, ahead of Britain's EU membership referendum expected to take place later this year.

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, said at the press conference following the two-day EU summit, "We have achieved a legally binding and irreversible deal decided on by all 28 leaders, strengthening Britain's special status in the EU."

"The settlement addresses all of PM Cameron's concerns without compromising our fundamental values," Tusk said.

Cameron told reporters the deal delivered on the commitments he has made, outlining that, "Britain will be permanently out of ever-closer union. There will be tough new restrictions to our welfare system for EU migrants. Britain will never join the euro and we've secure vital protections for our economy."

The British prime minister added that he had achieved all his main negotiating aims and would recommend the agreement to his cabinet on Saturday, firing the starting gun on a fierce referendum campaign on Britain's future membership of the bloc.

"I believe we are stronger, safer and better off inside a reformed European Union," he said. "And that is why I will be campaigning with all my heart and soul to persuade the British people to remain in the reformed European Union that we have secured today."

"I believe that this is enough for me to recommend that the UK stays in the European Union," he added.

Cameron has demanded EU reform in four areas including economic governance, competitiveness, sovereignty and social benefits, and free movement.

During negotiations, France and Belgium strongly resisted safeguards for countries that do not use the euro, and in an apparent win for them, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said the deal would give Britain no power of veto over the eurozone.

Britain and other "euro-outs" would, however, be able to raise concerns about eurozone policies to the level of EU summits.

Meanwhile, under the deal, Britain can apply a "safeguard mechanism" that will restrict incoming workers' access to social benefits for four years, gradually raising entitlements over this period. Other member states will have to approve the measure, which can then apply to newly arrived workers for seven years.

Britain has also secured recognition that it is not committed to further political integration into the EU. The country has argued that it does not want to surrender more powers to Brussels.

References in EU treaties "to ever closer union do not apply to the United Kingdom," said the deal.

Britain has been granted assurances that the EU will seek to improve its competitiveness, cut red tape for businesses, pursue an ambitious trade policy, encourage entrepreneurship and boost job creation.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "We believe that with this we have given David Cameron a package with which he can campaign in Britain for Britain to stay in the European Union."

She added that the accord was a "fair compromise."

"I do not think that we gave too much to Great Britain," she said.

French President Francois Hollande meanwhile insisted that the British deal contained "no exceptions to the rules" of the EU.

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