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PM: We need to be at EU top table

David Cameron will risk the wrath of Tory backbenchers by making the European Union a key part of his vision for Britain's future.

The Prime Minister is to stress the importance of being at the "top table" in institutions such as the EU, saying membership is in the national interest.

The intervention comes in a speech in Essex, billed as setting out the UK's role in the world ahead of the G8 conference in Northern Ireland.

Mr Cameron will argue that the Government is in a "battle for Britain's future", blaming Labour for "passing the buck".

He will acknowledge the pain of austerity, but insist the country has started reforming "just in time" with a "complete plan for national renewal". "At home, ambitious about competing. Abroad, ambitious about pursuing our national interest and standing up for our values," Mr Cameron will say.

Highlighting some key Conservative dividing lines with Labour, the premier is to say: "We have identified, very clearly, our key areas of national weakness compared to the rest of the world. One - our debt-fuelled, unbalanced economy. Two - our bloated welfare system. Three - our under-performing education system.

"These are the priorities that define and drive our domestic agenda. A stronger economy. Welfare that works. A world-class education system. And we are pursuing them with ruthless ambition for everyone in this country."

Mr Cameron will cite changes to the planning system, the welfare shake-up and restrictions on non-EU migration among the coalition's achievements.

"Three years into government and we have shaped a coherent and urgent response to the modern world we live in," he will say. "I do not claim that we have done all we need to, or that we're on the home straight. Far from it. These are still difficult times. We are adjusting as a country; going through a necessary time of change. ...The truth is that today, for our country, there is no such thing as destiny, only our determination to succeed. But together we are showing that determination.

"We are taking the right decisions, in this generation, for our country to succeed. This is the generation that hasn't passed the buck. Where there has been a fork in the road between doing what is easy and doing what is right, we have chosen what is right. We have started changing our country just in time, equipping Britain to succeed in the modern world. And our drive for Britain to succeed - it is not a case of who's up or down in some global game. It is about the British people and their lives."

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