British Prime Minister David Cameron negotiated a deal with European Union leaders to prevent Britain's exit from the union by sealing and strengthening its "special status" there.
After two long days of intense negotiations, Cameron said late February 19 that the deal delivers on his campaign promises and enables Britain to curb immigration while safeguarding the City of London financial center from heavy euro-zone regulation.
In an historic decision, he said the deal approved unanimously by all 28 EU leaders would ensure Britain stays out of the euro currency zone and would forever keep Britain from integrating more closely into a political union with continental Europe.
"Britain will never be part of a European superstate," Cameron said, adding that the British public has always rejected the idea of an ever more close political union with the rest of Europe."We have never liked it, we have never wanted it."
Also addressing key reforms sought by Britain, Cameron said his EU counterparts agreed to curb welfare benefits for migrants and clamp down on fraud and abuse.
But Britain would maintain its status as an intregral part of the economic and free-trade bloc that has been at the heart of the union since its beginnings after World War II.
"We will be out of the parts of Europe that don't work for us, and in the parts that do -- the best of both worlds," Cameron said.
Cameron said the major concessions by other EU leaders, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who was determined to keep Britain in the bloc, enable him to now push for keeping Britain in the EU as he presents the plan to the British Parliament and public.
He said he will soon set a date for what will be a historic referendum.
"The British people must now decide whether to stay in this reformed European Union or to leave. This will be a once in a generation moment to shape the destiny of our country," he said.
"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."
Merkel called the deal a "fair compromise," and said, "I do not think we gave too much to Great Britain."
"We have sent out a signal that we are all willing to sacrifice part of our interests for the common good," said EU President Donald Tusk, who led the negotiations.
"I deeply believe that the United Kingdom needs Europe and Europe needs the United Kingdom. To break the link now would be totally against our mutual interest. We have done all we could not to let that happen."
With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AFP