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Cameron pushes to finalise deal on EU reforms ahead of crunch summit

By PA Political Staff

Published 18/02/2016

Boosted: David Cameron
Boosted: David Cameron

David Cameron is making final efforts to bolster support for his proposed European Union reforms both in Brussels and within his own party before a crunch summit.

As negotiations continued over the details of the package, the Prime Minister was boosted by Angela Merkel's declaration that most of his demands were "justified and necessary".

The German chancellor sounded an upbeat note about the chances of the leaders of the 28-member bloc agreeing a package when they gather for a two-day meeting today.

With the latest draft due to be put out later by European Council president Donald Tusk, Mr Cameron still faces some tough wrangling, not least with Eastern European counterparts over curbs to benefits for migrant workers.

Agreement would allow an in/out referendum to be held as early as June and open the door for senior Eurosceptic Tories to join the campaign in favour of Brexit.

Among prominent figures yet to show their hand is London Mayor Boris Johnson, who was called to Number 10 for talks as the PM seeks to secure his support for the "remain" camp.

Mr Johnson remained tight-lipped on his stance as he emerged from the 40-minute discussion but senior sources said he would "make everything abundantly clear by the end of the week" if a deal was concluded by EU leaders.

They insisted he remained "conflicted" on the issue and rejected suggestions he was seeking to exploit the issue to maximise his chances of succeeding Mr Cameron as Conservative leader.

If he secures a deal Mr Cameron will return to the UK for a Cabinet meeting to agree a Government position - and he has told ministers that collective responsibility will then be suspended on the issue so that they can campaign for either side.

Downing Street conceded there "are still details to be nailed down" to secure an agreement this week but insisted Mr Cameron's talks with key figures in Brussels on Tuesday had been "useful".

In a speech to the German parliament, Mrs Merkel said the changes being sought by Mr Cameron were "far from being demands that are just for Britain" and that it was in her country's national interest for the UK to remain in the EU.

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