UK's Cameron wins deal for 'special status' in EU
British Prime Minister David Cameron
Brussels - This will be Britain's second referendum on European membership in just over 30 years.
British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday sealed a deal for "special status" in the EU after a marathon summit, paving the way for him to campaign to stay in the bloc in a historic referendum.
The unanimous agreement came after two days and nights of intense negotiations in Brussels, despite European leaders digging in their heels on all the major reforms Cameron sought.
Cameron will hold an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday as he embarks on the difficult process of selling the deal at home ahead of the referendum, expected on June 23.
"I've negotiated a deal to give the UK special status in the European Union," Cameron told a press conference.
"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."
He said the deal contained a seven-year "emergency brake" on welfare payments for EU migrants and meant Britain would be "permanently out of ever closer union".
While Britain's place in the EU now rests in the hands of the British public, the deal removes one major headache for the bloc as it faces the biggest migration crisis in Europe's history.
EU president Donald Tusk - the man who brokered the deal - said the "unanimous" agreement "strengthens Britain's special status in the EU" and was "legally binding and irreversible."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe's most powerful leader, said the accord was a "fair compromise".
French President Francois Hollande meanwhile insisted that the British deal contained "no exceptions to the rules" of the EU.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, the first to break the news of the agreement, meanwhile tweeted "Drama over."
Opinion polls suggest the British public is finely balanced on whether to back a Brexit.
Cameron will fly back to London where, after a cabinet meeting at 0900 GMT on Saturday, the referendum campaign will whirr into life as ministers who want Britain to leave will be allowed to speak out for the first time.
On Monday, Cameron's government is expected to table measures in the Houses of Parliament to set the date of the vote.
This will be Britain's second referendum on European membership in just over 30 years - in June 1975, voters backed membership of the then European Economic Community (EEC) by just over 67 percent.
I believe Britain is stronger, safer and better off within a reformed European Union. My statement on tonight's deal:
Posted by David Cameron on Friday, 19 February 2016