Chinese president Xi Jinping says UK has a role to play in the EU

The general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party thinks Britian should stay in the bloc

Mr Xi met David Cameron
Mr Xi met David Cameron

The United Kingdom must continue to play a role in a “united” European Union, China’s president has said.

Xi Jingping, who is visiting Britain, told David Cameron that that British involvement in the bloc could help Europe build a closer relationship with China.

A statement from China’s foreign ministry paraphrased the president’s remarks, according to the Reuters news agency.

“China hopes to see a prosperous Europe and a united EU, and hopes Britain, as an important member of the EU, can play an even more positive and constructive role in promoting the deepening development of China-EU ties,” it said.

The statement is the strongest suggestion yet from China’s leader that he would like Britain to remain in the European Union ahead of a crucial vote due in the next few years.

The UK faces in an in-out referendum on membership of the bloc before the end of 2017, as pledged in the Conservative election manifesto.

Mr Cameron has said he will renegotiate Britain’s terms of membership of the bloc, focusing on changing rules around freedom of movement and social security payments.

He has also hinted that the referendum could come even sooner, and might even occur before such renegotiations are complete.

Mr Xi was speaking on the final day of his four day visit to the UK, his first since he came to power.

The British Government says China has agreed billions of foreign investment deals into the UK, including a new generation of nuclear power plants.

Mr Xi dined with dignitaries, including the Queen, at a state banquet, and notably met opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn to discuss human rights concerns.

Other countries, including the United States, have also expressed hope that the UK would remain in the European Union.

US president Barack Obama said earlier this year that "having the UK in the European Union gives us much greater confidence about the strength of the transatlantic union".

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