Britain to stay in EU: top European diplomat Mogherini

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There are fears that Britain could leave the European Union in a so-called "Brexit"

There are fears that Britain could leave the European Union in a so-called "Brexit" (AFP Photo/Gerard Cerles)

Beijing (AFP) - Britain will stay in the European Union, the 28-nation group's top diplomat predicted Wednesday, a day ahead of an election in which incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum on membership.

"I don't think the European Union is going to have a U-turn and, after years of enlargement, (start) to lose pieces," Federica Mogherini told Chinese and European students at Peking University.

The EU's future is as a "major world power", said Mogherini, who is on a two-day visit to China for regular "strategic dialogue" talks.

Calling Britain's Thursday election "the most unpredictable scenario that we could imagine", Mogherini nevertheless said that the country will remain part of the EU.

"The UK membership of the EU is something that is going to stay," she said.

"I understand that this can be seen as a strong statement, but I'm convinced that it is part of UK national interests to stay as a member of the European Union and it is part of the European interest to keep the UK in the European Union as a full member."

No party is expected to win a majority at the poll, which could lead to prolonged political horse-trading before a government can be formed.

Cameron, whose Conservatives are currently governing in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, has promised a referendum on EU membership if the Tories win, leading to fears that Britain could depart from the grouping in a so-called "Brexit".

At the same time cash-strapped Greece, the EU and the IMF have been struggling to reach a deal that would unblock billions of euros in bailout funds for Athens in return for more reforms and avoid a potentially catastrophic default and exit from the eurozone, dubbed "Grexit".

Mogherini called the situation surrounding Greece "difficult" and "unpredictable", and stressed an "important step" on Monday, apparently referring to a meeting of eurozone ministers in Brussels.

"We are doing all that we can, from the (European) Commission side, from the European side and I hope, I'm convinced, also from the Greek side to find a solution, to find a common solution," she said.