David Cameron has promised to give voters "a real choice" over Britain's future relations with Europe, but said voters will have to wait until his speech later this month to see whether he will offer an in-or-out referendum on UK membership of the EU.
He said it was perfectly reasonable that as the EU had asked for treaty changes to make the single currency work effectively, so it was right that the UK could ask for changes in its relationship with the EU. Voters, he told BBC Radio 5 Live on Friday, will get "a real choice about that change in Europe".
Asked whether that could involve the option of withdrawal, he said: "You will have to wait for the speech.
"But it will demonstrate very clearly that it is the Conservative party at the next election that will be offering people a real change in terms of Europe and a real choice about that change."
He conceded that any renegotiation would be tough but said it was not in Britain's national interest to withdraw and no longer be "round the table writing the rules".
"I don't think it's right to aim for a status like Norway or Switzerland where basically you have to obey all the rules of the single market but you don't have a say over what they are," he said.
His speech later this month is expected to sketch out the kind of negotiating demands Britain will make after the general election when the EU seeks treaty changes to ensure the single currency works effectively, including greater monitoring and supervision powers. He is expected to ask for a repatriation of powers over issues such as social welfare.
There needs to be unanimity for any treaty changes sought by the UK, prompting claims that the prime minister is in danger of setting out unrealistic negotiating demands that would force him to admit defeat and recommend the UK leave the EU.
Unless Cameron says he is willing to quit the EU, it is also argued he will have no credible bargaining position.
The Franco-German axis at the heart of the eurozone is unlikely to map out the detail of how it wants the eurozone to work and relate to non-eurozone members until after the German elections in the autumn.
Cameron said it was perfectly reasonable for his Liberal Democrat partners in the coalition to have a different view on the EU, but even now, he said, the UK was achieving gains in its negotiations, adding that he was confident he would secure an acceptable deal on the future size of the EU budget.
He said that in private the coalition was not at war the whole time and the way for the Liberal Democrats to do well at the next election was not to row in public. He said the Liberal Democrats will do well when the coalition does well.
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