By politics.co.uk staff
Britain would opt to remain inside the European Union if the issue is ever put to voters, Nick Clegg has said.
The unexpected prediction from the deputy prime minister comes amid a storm of activity from Conservative eurosceptics, as the long campaigning season ahead of May's European elections begins in earnest.
Clegg insisted the British people would ultimately appreciate "we can win in the world by being open" if his coalition colleague David Cameron gets his referendum in the next parliament.
"I personally believe that when and if there is a referendum I don't think the British people would vote for an exit," he told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.
"People know they live in a globalised world, there is a footloose fancy-free economic world in which money can be moved from one border to another... in this world, you get more done by doing things together than you do apart."
In the Cabinet, Iain Duncan Smith has revealed he is in talks with his counterparts on the continent seeking ways in which benefits can be withheld from immigrants from elsewhere in the EU for up to two years.
On the government backbenches nearly 100 MPs have signed a letter calling on Cameron to pass legislation allowing the Commons to veto any European laws the UK does not like.
Clegg accused Tory backbenchers of attempting to "have their cake and eat it". He said parliaments could join together to reject EU proposals but no one country could attempt to do so and remain in the "club".
At the end of the day when you're a member of a club, whether it's a golf club or sports club or economic club, there are certain rules by which everybody has to operate," he added.