David Cameron is to call a special meeting of his cabinet on Saturday after striking a deal with fellow EU leaders in Brussels, which will pave the way for an in/out referendum on British membership later this year.
The vote is likely to be held in June after the prime minister secured an agreement, which he said would give "special status in the EU." Cameron confirmed he would now lead the campaign to keep Britain in the European Union.
European Council President Donald Tusk announced the agreement, noting “unanimous support for new settlement for the UK in Europe.”
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Cameron said: "This deal has delivered on the commitments I made at the beginning of this re-negotiation process. Britain will be permanently out of 'ever closer union', never part of a European superstate. I believe that this is enough for me to recommend that the United Kingdom remains in the European Union."
Love or loathe him, like EU or hate it, back deal or deride it - @David_Cameron delivered tour de force in favour of EU. Moment of history— Nick Robinson (@bbcnickrobinson) February 19, 2016
The accord came late on Friday evening after two days of grueling talks in Brussels between leaders of the 28 member states.
The PM faced opposition to proposals to restrict migrant benefits and provide new protections for countries outside the single currency.
The new deal provides for a seven-year emergency brake on in-work benefits for EU migrant workers, as well as cuts in child benefits for their children living overseas -- applicable immediately for new arrivals and from 2020 for the 34,000 existing claimants.
It also says that EU treaties will be amended so that references to the requirement to seek ever-closer union "do not apply to the United Kingdom".
Cameron posted a jubilant tweet from the negotiating table.
I have negotiated a deal to give the UK special status in the EU. I will be recommending it to Cabinet tomorrow. Press conference shortly.— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) February 19, 2016
After Cameron has briefed his ministers, they will be free to campaign for either side in the referendum. At least six top cabinet members, including Justice Secretary Michael Gove, are expected to defy Cameron and campaign for Brexit.
Influential Tory MP and London Mayor Boris Johnson has yet to reveal his intentions ahead of the vote, but said he would reveal his position with "deafening éclat” after the deal was secured.
Speaking at a conference on Friday evening, Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who is to campaign for Britain to leave the EU, said: “Dave’s deal is not worth the paper it is written on.” He later tweeted:
This is a truly pathetic deal. Let's Leave the EU, control our borders, run our own country and stop handing £55m every day to Brussels.— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) February 19, 2016
At the same conference, Conservative MP David Davis said it was time for Britain "to take control of its own destiny."
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Vote Leave campaign, predicted the PM would declare "victory" but said it would be "an entirely hollow one."
Elliott added that the deal is "not legally binding and can be ripped up by EU politicians and unelected EU judges so it will have no more force than an unsigned contract."
Leading eurosceptic and Member of the European Parliament Dan Hannan was equally unimpressed with the deal: