Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith issued a plea for Tory Eurosceptics to give David Cameron a chance today in the wake of last week's humiliating rebellion.
Iain Duncan Smith insisted the Prime Minister deserved "credit" for his tough stance on the EU budget and repatriating powers.
He also confirmed that Cameron would pledge a referendum on Britain's relationship with the EU - saying it was just a matter of "when and on what".
Duncan Smith praised Cameron after the PM suffered a parliamentary defeat last week
More than 50 Tory backbenchers helped inflict a damaging parliamentary defeat on Cameron last week by demanding a real-terms cut in the seven-year Brussels funding package.
Rebel ringleader Mark Reckless has claimed that at least one member of the Cabinet toyed with resigning to join the mutiny.
But interviewed on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Duncan Smith said achieving an inflation-only rise - around 2% - at a crunch EU summit later this month would be a good result.
The noted Eurosceptic said: "We are here right now trying to restrict the amount of money that goes to the European budget.
"I think he (Cameron) would love to come back with a real-terms cut, I would love him to do it.
"But I just honestly feel that sometimes we do not give enough credit to him - the first man to veto a European treaty.
"He has told us he will veto something that he cannot bring back to the British Parliament.
"These are strong words compared to the last government, and even governments before when we saw budgets rise under the last government, we saw them lose half our rebate.
"The Prime Minister has been quite tough and quite strong on this."
Duncan Smith pointed to his own rebellious history as one of the thorns in John Major's side over Maastricht in the 1990s.
"I simply say that sometimes the things to rebel on are often not just about having a go at the Prime Minister, but also about Europe," he said.
"This one is really about saying the Prime Minister is on our side, he wants to get the best deal. If he can get that freeze that would be a pretty significant start, so I would be satisfied."
Asked whether Cameron would be bringing forward proposals for a referendum, Duncan Smith pointed out that the premier was due to make a key speech on Europe in the coming weeks.
"The Prime Minister has said he is not against a referendum. It is just a matter of when and on what. We are looking at that at the moment," he said.
The Work and Pensions Secretary refused to state whether he personally wanted to see Britain leave the EU.
However, he insisted the country could thrive inside or outside the grouping.
"I am an optimist on the UK," he said. "We are a member of the EU, that gives us benefits but we have to figure out where that is going.
"But in the world we are a global trader already. We are more of a global trader than any other country in Europe.
"I hate this argument that says, little Britain outside, or Britain as part of a wider Europe.
"We can both be within our trading relationship in Europe or we can also be a fantastic global trader.
"We do more trade, we invest more in the US than any other country in the world, we trade more with many of those other countries."
Reckless said he spoke privately to a Eurosceptic Cabinet minister during Wednesday's debate on the EU budget negotiating strategy, and tried to persuade him to join the revolt.
He told The Mail on Sunday: "I pitched my amendment to him and suggested he might support it.
"I said, 'It could be your moment, there is a gap in the market'. I said how close the vote was going to be and made the case that they should leave the Cabinet, support my motion and put themselves at the head of a truly Eurosceptic force in the Conservative Party.
"They seriously considered it. They talked to me about the mechanics and weighed up the pros and cons and agreed to have someone else follow up in a telephone call."
Reckless, who refused to name the minister, said they were considering "is this the moment that will make a difference? Is the vote really that close? Their future career trajectory and how it might go in the two different scenarios".
Although the vote calling for a real-terms budget cut was not binding on the Government, a Cabinet resignation would have sparked turmoil in the Conservative Party.
However, fellow rebel Mark Pritchard played down how close it came to happening.
"Lots of 'nearly resignations' from Cabinet over EU referendum and budget votes," the MP posted on Twitter. "It's all empty talk without action."
Ukip leader Nigel Farage said Britain did not need to be in a political union to export to Europe - and called for greater trade with emerging nations.
He told BBC1's Sunday Politics: "One of the reasons we are doing so little business with countries like India is because we're prohibited - forbidden, banned - from making our own trade deals with any other country in the world because we are part of a European customs union and thus our whole thinking for four decades has been Euro-centric, and that is a huge mistake."
Farage claimed the Prime Minister and "political class" would "do everything they can" to deny Britons a referendum on leaving the EU.
He added: "They want to keep us stuck inside the single market.
"The single market today is like the common market of 40 years ago; it sounds innocuous, but it's not."
Meanwhile, a poll suggested nearly a third of people in Cameron's Oxfordshire seat would "seriously consider" voting against him unless an EU referendum is promised.
One in 10 Tory supporters in Witney said they would transfer their allegiance to another party if it offered an in-out ballot.
The Com Res survey for pro-referendum campaign group the People's Pledge revealed that about two-thirds of voters in the constituency want a referendum on the UK's engagement with Brussels.
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