British voters could be given a referendum on whether to leave the European Union, David Cameron has indicated.
Mr Cameron risked the wrath of eurosceptic Conservative backbenchers by dismissing their calls for an immediate in/out poll in a statement to the House of Commons.
But he said that "over time" he hoped to secure a "fresh deal" for Britain in Europe, which would mean finding a way to obtain "the fresh consent of the British people". And he made clear that he is leaving open the possibility that this could mean a referendum with the option of UK withdrawal on the ballot paper.
In a statement to the House of Commons, Mr Cameron described the status quo in Europe as "unacceptable", but told MPs that he does not believe leaving the EU would be best for Britain.
"I do support our membership, I do think the single market is vital for us, and determining the rules of that market matter for us," he said.
But when Tory MP Julian Lewis asked him "Is it your position that on any referendum on Europe, while you are PM, the option of voting to leave the EU will not appear on the ballot paper?", Mr Cameron replied: "That is not what I've said."
The Prime Minister added: "What I've said is I don't support an immediate in/out referendum.
"I believe we should show strategic and tactical patience in this and then what I want to see is a fresh settlement that we seek fresh consent for. The right time to determine questions about referendums and the rest of it is after we have that fresh settlement. That is what we should do."
Labour accused the Prime Minister of running a "nudge-nudge, wink-wink" policy on Europe, after he appeared to rule out a referendum last Friday only to revive hopes of a vote in a newspaper article during what Ed Miliband called his "hokey-cokey weekend".
The Labour leader said Mr Cameron's position on Europe was driven by the desire to appease backbenchers, on the day when former defence secretary Liam Fox became the most senior Tory to call for an immediate renegotiation of Britain's terms of membership followed by a referendum.