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No British Europe, EU conservative leader says

Prime Minister David Cameron arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels December 17, 2015. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies will support British Prime Minister David Cameron if he wants to address Europe’s weaknesses but do not want a British Europe, an EU conservative leader told a German newspaper.

Britain is due to hold a referendum on whether to remain in the European Union by the end of 2017. After a meeting with Cameron earlier this month, the EU’s political leaders agreed there must be a compromise to keep Britain in the bloc.

Cameron has said he wants Britain to remain in the EU, but has hinted he could campaign for an exit if he fails to win an agreement that can reduce the influx of EU migrants, improve business competitiveness, return more sovereignty to Britain and protect London’s banks from discrimination by the euro zone.

Manfred Weber, leader of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), told German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) would support Cameron if he wanted to reform the EU’s weak spots such as bureaucracy and a lack of competitiveness.

“We want to help Cameron but we don’t want a British Europe, we want a better Europe,” Weber, a CSU member, was quoted as saying in a copy of an interview to be published on Tuesday.

The newspaper said Cameron would attend a CSU party conference in early January.

Weber said Cameron primarily considered the EU to be a common market while the CSU also saw it as a political community and “a life insurance policy in times of globalisation”.

Weber said if Britain got such a deal, it “must not be allowed to continually apply the brakes if other countries want to work together more closely,” such as on military cooperation.

“If we end up with a weaker Europe after the reforms that are now being discussed with Great Britain, it will be difficult to find a joint path with London,” he said.

Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Janet Lawrence