David Cameron has insisted a British exit from the EU is not “the right answer”, as he said he was “close” to securing a renegotiation deal.
The prime minister made clear that his preference was to hold an in-out referendum on reformed membership terms this summer — but hinted he could delay it until next year if a new package is not finalised in the coming weeks.
He also refused to rule out applying restrictions on in-work benefits to young Britons in a bid to stop the “almost unnatural draw” of the UK’s welfare system for European migrants.
In an interview on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, Cameron was asked whether the Government was preparing contingency plans for a so-called Brexit.
“I don’t think that is the right answer for the reasons I have given.
“Were that to be the answer we would need to do everything necessary to make that work,” he said.
“The civil service are working round the clock to support my negotiation.”
Cameron said he was “confident we can get a good outcome” from the haggling with EU counterparts, and he still “hoped” a package could be finalised by the next Brussels summit on February 18.
If that timetable slipped the referendum may be delayed from summer and could take place “later” than September, he indicated.
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