David Cameron's decision to argue against Britain aping Norway if it leaves the EU is a "tactic" to tempt "out" campaigners to propose "unrealistic fantasies", a "Brexit" expert has said.
Writing for The Huffington Post UK, Jonathan Lindsell of the Civitas think-tank says the PM is trying to "outmanoeuvre" those campaigning to leave as he positions himself "firmly" on the the side of staying "in" the EU.
Mr Cameron last week said he would "guard against" following Norway's semi-detatched relationship with Brussels, which supporters of leaving the EU say is not being considered.
But Mr Lindsell suggests this is part of a plan to frame the "outists" as "gamblers".
He writes: "By forcing the 'out' campaign to deny they like Norway's situation, Cameron forces them towards more radical, less tangible Brexit promises. These he can attack as unrealistic fantasies later in the campaign."
It comes as George Osborne travels to Berlin today to insist British people do not want to be "part of an ever-closer union", underlining how the Government wants a deal to prevent discrimination against British businesses operating in the eurozone as its thrashes out a new settlement with European leaders.
Mr Cameron's re-negotiations will be put to the public in an in-out referendum before 2017, and the deal will determine on which side senior Government figures campaign.
But Mr Lindsell says it is already clear the PM has decided he wants to stay in.
He says: "Cameron's tactic may then pay off.
"At the moment he looks foolish, having attacked an exit proposal that the prominent players do not actually want to defend.
"But further down the line, assuming Cameron fights for his renegotiated EU membership, he will be able to say that the Outists are gamblers, that they jettisoned the low-risk option in favour of big vague promises they cannot explain how they would deliver."