EU starts ‘now or never’ summit to clinch deal for Britain

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Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday that hard work and goodwill should help him to clinch a deal at a European Union summit, described by leaders of the 28-nation bloc as the best chance of preventing Britain leaving.

Ahead of the ‘now or never’ talks, the latest draft agreement sent to EU leaders overnight and seen by Reuters offered several ways of overcoming differences on the most contentious areas of Cameron’s renegotiation – migration curbs and financial safeguards – but much was still open for debate.

Cameron is keen to end the week in Brussels with a deal that he can call a victory so he can then start campaigning to keep Britain in the EU before a referendum widely expected to be held in late June.

“We’ve got some important work to do today and tomorrow, and it’s going to be hard. I’ll be battling for Britain. If we can get a good deal, I’ll take that deal, but I will not take a deal that doesn’t meet what we need,” Cameron said as he arrived at the two-day summit.

“I think it’s much more important to get this right than to do anything in a rush, but with goodwill, with hard work, we can get a better deal for Britain,” Cameron told reporters.

The stakes are high. A vote to leave would not only transform Britain’s future in world affairs but would also shake the EU, which has struggled to maintain unity over migration and financial crises, by ripping away its second-largest economy and one of its two main military powers.

The British public is split over whether to remain in the European Union, but with opinion polls showing the ‘out’ campaign gaining ground, Cameron wants to hold the referendum as soon as possible. Both sides argue Britain would be financially better off if their cause succeeds.