A former top adviser says the late Margaret Thatcher would have supported the proposed deal outlined this week to keep Britain inside the 28-nation European Union.

Longtime Thatcher aide Charles Powell said in a Sunday column that Thatcher did not have much enthusiasm for the EU but wanted to reform it rather than leave.

The fight for Conservative Party icon Thatcher's mantle may be important as British Prime Minister David Cameron struggles to convince reluctant Conservative legislators that Britain is better off inside the EU. Cameron has promised British voters an "in-or-out" referendum on whether to stay in the EU by the end of 2017. Many are expecting a vote much sooner.

EU leaders will meet Feb. 18 to consider proposed changes to Britain's relations with the EU.