david cameron, donald tusk.jpg
Photograph: EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

Negotiations over a reform deal that is meant to keep Britain in the European Union were going into overtime Friday, with EU leaders not expected to be presented with a new proposal until the afternoon.

Hopes are high that a reform package will convince Britons that they should vote for their country to remain in the EU, in a referendum that is widely expected to take place this year.

But an initial round of summit discussions on Thursday evening had shown that still "a lot" remained to be done for all of the bloc's 28 leaders to endorse the package, EU President Donald Tusk said.

"Work ongoing on revised UK in EU settlement," Tusk's spokesman, Preben Aaman, wrote on Twitter on Friday morning, saying that leaders would hold small-group talks from 11 am (1000 GMT) before reconvening for an "English lunch" at 1:30 pm.

The leaders had initially planned on meeting again for breakfast.

Tusk has spoken of a "make or break summit," with fears rife that Britain is heading towards Brexit - the buzzword coined for a British departure from the EU after more than 40 years of half-hearted membership.

Many worry that this would destabilize the EU and reduce the bloc's global influence, at a time when it is already struggling with a migration crisis and enduring economic woes.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has demanded EU reforms in the areas of sovereignty, immigration, economic governance and competitiveness, which he has said would allow him to campaign for Britain to stay in the bloc.

But the 27 other member states have refused to budge on basic values, particularly the freedom to live and work anywhere in the EU.

One of the crunch issues has been a British demand to curb welfare payments to European workers, with tensions in particular over child benefits for those whose families live outside Britain.

London is keen to limit the number of EU workers seeking jobs in Britain, amid a perception that continental Europeans are saturating its labour market.

Just over 2 million EU citizens were working in Britain at the end of 2015, out of a total of around 31 million workers, according to national statistics released Wednesday. The country has the fifth-largest economy in the world.

Other issues unresolved early Friday had related to a British exemption to the EU's stated goal of "ever closer union," as well as a proposed mechanism for non-eurozone countries such as Britain to raise concerns about initiatives taken by the currency bloc.

Speculation has been rife that if a deal is reached at the Brussels summit on Friday, it will pave the way for Cameron to call the in-out referendum for June 23.

Related stories

Growing optimism over Brexit deal ahead of EU summit

EU leaders head into showdown over deal to stave off Brexit

Latest news

North Korean envoy to Malaysia: 'We cannot trust the investigation'

North Korea "cannot trust the investigation" by Malaysian police into the death last week of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half-brother, Pyongyang's ambassador to Malaysia said Monday.

Kim Dotcom loses latest round in extradition saga

German internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom has lost another legal round after the New Zealand High Court ruled that he and three of his colleagues can be extradited to the United States, but he said Monday his fight is far from over.

Thai monks clash with police on fifth day of high-profile temple raid

Several monks were injured early Monday in clashes with Thai police at a Buddhist temple where thousands of officers have been searching for a former abbot wanted on money laundering and land encroachment charges.

Cambodia passes bill easing requirements to abolish political parties

Cambodia's parliament passed a controversial bill on Monday allowing the government to abolish political parties whose members have been convicted of criminal charges, a senior opposition lawmaker has confirmed to dpa.

Former VP Moreno wins first round of Ecuador's presidential elections

Leftist former vice president Lenin Moreno has won the first round of presidential elections in Ecuador on Sunday, according to preliminary results released by the country's electoral authority.

Report: US and Russia supply over half of global arms

The United States and Russia supplied more than half of the world's arms over the past five years, a period that saw arms transfers reach their highest volume since the end of the Cold War, a Swedish-based research institute said Monday.

Messi's last minute penalty saves Barcelona from shock draw

Barcelona beat Leganes 2-1 with a last minute penalty from Lionel Messi in the Spanish first division on Sunday.

At least 30 injured after explosion in Bogota

A explosion in the Macarena area of Bogota injured at least 30 people on Sunday, many of them police officers who were guarding a bull running through the streets of the Colombian capital.

Vojvodina institutions hold conference on Bunjevci's non-Croat ethnic background

There are around 16,000 members of the Bunjevci community in Vojvodina who deny their Croat ethnic background. They are represented by the Bunjevci National Council which enjoys the support of state authorities, and, since the change of government in Vojvodina, of the provincial authorities as well.

SpaceX rocket blasts off from historic launch pad en route to ISS

A commercial rocket built by SpaceX is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) with a load of research equipment, cargo and supplies, NASA said Sunday.

Defence deals worth 1.2 billion dollars announced at key UAE show

Deals worth nearly 4.4 billion dirhams (1.2 billion dollars) were reached at a major defence show that opened Sunday in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), an official said.

Thousands protest in Malta against controversial press law reforms

Thousands of people attended a demonstration in Malta on Sunday, answering a call by the main opposition party to protest against what it described as a threat to democracy and freedom of expression.