China's Xi supports Britain staying in EU: Ministry

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks to guests before boarding an airplane to return to China, from Manchester, Britain, on Oct 23, 2015. He has been on a four day state visit to Britain.
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks to guests before boarding an airplane to return to China, from Manchester, Britain, on Oct 23, 2015. He has been on a four day state visit to Britain.PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese President Xi Jinping said he hoped Britain would remain in the European Union, during talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

"China hopes to see a prosperous Europe, a united European Union," Xi was paraphrased as saying to Cameron during talks on Thursday in a statement issued during his visit to Britain on Friday (Oct 23).

"China hopes Britain will be an important member country of the European Union to be a more positive and constructive element to deepen the development of Sino-European relations," the statement said.

Contacted by AFP, Cameron's office declined to comment.

A Downing Street statement after the talks at Cameron's country residence in Chequers said the two had discussed international issues including Syria and Iran but did not mention the EU.

Cameron has said he will support Britain remaining in the EU in a referendum due to be held by 2017 but only if he manages to negotiate a series of reforms that would increase Britain's powers.

He has not ruled out advocating leaving the 28-country bloc.

The prime minister faces pressure from Eurosceptics inside his own Conservative Party as well as the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) and opinion polls indicate the referendum could be a close vote.

Xi left Britain on Friday after a four-day state visit.