Angela Merkel says it is in Germany's national interest for Britain to stay in the EU

The German Chancellor says many of the UK's demands are sensible

It is in Germany’s national interest for Britain to remain in the European Union, the country’s chancellor has said.

Angela Merkel said changes proposed to EU rules by David Cameron were “justified and necessary” and that Germany backed them.

“Far from being demands that are just for Britain they are also European demands and many of them are justified and necessary,” she said ahead of a two-day meeting of leaders to discuss the package.

“Germany will make its contribution so that a result that satisfies everyone can be achieved, if possible already at the summit beginning tomorrow," she went on.

“I am convinced that it is in our national interest for Great Britain to remain an active member in a strong and successful European Union.”

The Government of other countries such as France and Ireland has also strongly expressed their wish for the UK so stay in the bloc.

French president Francois Hollande said ahead of talks this week that the UK had a 'firm basis' for a deal, while Ireland's Enda Kenny has also been supportive.

The statement by Ms Merkel comes the same day as an EU-wide poll showing the overwhelming majority of Europeans want Britain to stay in the EU.

The survey, conducted by Lord Ashcroft and published in The Sun newspaper, found that 60 per cent of people want the UK to stay in the EU – compared to just 10 per cent who want it to leave.

30 per cent said the answer did not matter or that they had no view. Germany was one of the more anti-Brexit countries in the poll, with just 11 per cent in favour of UK withdrawal and 59 per cent in favour of the UK staying.

The same poll however found strong appetite in Britain itself for leaving – with 50 per cent support for staying and 40 per cent for exit.

The wider polling context in Britain is that of a shrinking lead for the “remain” campaign in the polls after a public rejection of David Cameron’s EU reform deal.

Britain will hold a referendum on whether to leave the European Union before the end of 2017 – though the plebiscite is now widely expected in June of this year.

The Conservative manifesto pledged a renegotiation of the terms of membership of the EU, including rules on immigration and benefits.

The PM is in and out of crunch talks in Brussels where he will have to get the 28 EU heads of government to agree to a draft package, which was drawn up by European Council president Donald Tusk.

Mr Cameron faces several hurdles – including significant opposition from eastern European countries like Poland whose citizens could lose out under the plan.

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