David Cameron said he was “battling for Britain” as he arrived in Brussels for a crucial EU summit.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said he is “quite confident” European leaders can reach a deal with Britain over its future membership of the EU.
Mr Cameron aims to return with a reform package he can put to the British people in a referendum in June.
But he faces resistance to some of his key demands from other EU leaders.
- Follow the latest developments with the BBC’s EU Summit Live
Mr Cameron said: “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. 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.”
Leaked copies of a final draft of Britain’s proposals, seen by the Guardian, suggest Mr Cameron still has to convince fellow EU leaders to agree to treaty changes to cement his reforms.
The documents also suggest France is still resisting attempts to secure protection for the City of London by giving non-eurozone nations more power to stall financial regulation.
Mr Cameron’s plan to cut the amount of child benefit EU migrants can send back to to their home countries would apply across the EU according to the leaked drafts – something that would be resisted by Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The key parts of UK deal:
- Allowing Britain to opt out from the EU’s founding ambition to forge an “ever closer union” of the peoples of Europe and greater powers to national parliaments to block EU legislation
- Restrictions on other EU nationals getting in-work benefits in the UK for four years. Changing child benefit rules so payment reflects cost of living in countries where the child lives
- Explicit recognition that the euro is not the only currency of the EU and guarantees to ensure countries outside eurozone are not disadvantaged or have to join eurozone bailouts
- A target for the reduction of the “burden” of excessive regulation and extending the single market
Senior EU officials have been talking up the chances of a deal, while admitting there are still difficulties that need to be ironed out.
“I’m quite confident that we will have a deal during this European Council,” Mr Juncker told reporters.
“We have to sort out a certain number of questions… and I’m convinced that Britain will be a constructive and active member of the European Union.”
European Council president Donald Tusk said “this is a make-or-break summit, I have no doubt” as he arrived.
EU Out campaigners say the draft reforms will make no difference to the number of migrants coming to Britain and will not allow the UK to block unwanted EU laws.
UKIP’s migration spokesman Steven Woolfe will lead a demonstration outside the meeting in protest at Mr Cameron’s “pitiful deal for Britain”.
He said: “The prime minister has asked for little and has been granted even less.
“He has taken his begging bowl to Brussels and, in an embarrassment for Britain, has produced a renegotiation package that fails to bring back control of our borders, reduce the daily cost of our membership or secure the sovereignty of our great nation.”
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan dismissed the proposed deal and warned that any changes could be unpicked by the European Parliament in future.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t know of any MEPs or Eurocrats in private who think that this is a fundamental change. All of the sound and fury, all of the negotiations, have come down to amending one directive – which we could have done at any time without needing any renegotiation.
“Privately, the Eurocrats were whooping and high-fiving and turning cartwheels because so little has been asked for.”
Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock, who was a European commissioner, said Mr Cameron had “probably done as well as could be expected” and warned of “seismic” consequences if the UK left the EU.