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Cameron emboldened over Brexit debate after EU yields to his raft of demands, but war within own party still to be won

By Kerri-Ann Roper

The Prime Minister last night hailed his historic EU renegotiation deal, declaring that he has secured Britain's "special status" in the 28-nation bloc.

At the end of marathon talks in Brussels, Mr Cameron said he had achieved his negotiating aims and would be recommending the agreement to the British people in a referendum now expected to be held on June 23.

"This deal has delivered on the commitments I made at the beginning of this renegotiation process. Britain will be permanently out of 'ever closer union', never part of a European superstate," he said.

"I believe that this is enough for me to recommend that the United Kingdom remains in the European Union."

After finally securing the backing of the other 27 EU leaders for his plan, Mr Cameron was heading back to London to brief senior ministers at a Saturday morning meeting of the Cabinet at No 10.

Mr Cameron said the deal would make the UK "stronger, safer and better off" as he set out the "once in a generation moment to shape the destiny of our country" at the referendum.

"Turning our back on the EU is no solution at all," he said.

"And we should be suspicious of those who claim that leaving Europe is some automatic fast track to some land of milk and honey.

"We all need to step back and consider carefully what is best for Britain, what is best for our future.

"Whatever the British people decide, I will make work to the best of my abilities.

"But let me tell you what I believe: I do not love Brussels; I love Britain. And my job, the job of the British Prime Minister, is doing all in my power to protect Britain's interests.

"So when it comes to Europe, mine is a hard-headed assessment of what is in Britain's interest."

The changes fulfilled the reform objectives in the Conservatives' General Election manifesto and were "legally binding" and irreversible without the agreement of all EU member states including the UK, he said.

He said he was "disappointed but not surprised" that close ally, Justice Secretary Michael Gove, would be among those campaigning in favour of Brexit.

The Cabinet meeting will be the first to be held on a Saturday since the Falklands War, and was demanded by Eurosceptic ministers who did not want the Prime Minister to have free rein to trumpet the merits of the deal all weekend while they were gagged.

The deal came after gruelling behind-the-scenes talks.

In Northern Ireland, critics slammed the Cameron deal.

TUV leader Jim Allister said the deal was "pitiful", claiming EU law will remain supreme, and the UK will have "no control over its own destiny or borders".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood criticised what he called the Prime Minister's "reckless strategy".

Ukip's Northern Ireland leader David McNarry said the deal fell short.

"Wait and watch the detail of the deal unravel," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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