The UK Independence Party were branded “extremists” by the Prime Minister as he launched the Conservatives’ campaign for the European and local elections.
David Cameron looked to position the Conservatives as the middle ground between the pro-European Liberal Democrats and Ukip’s determination to leave the European Union.
The Tories are wary of losing votes to Ukip which goes into the polls on the back of a year which saw it win 139 council seats and take second places in the South Shields and Wythenshawe and Sale East by-elections.
With European and local elections taking place on the same day, Ukip is hoping supporters who normally back it for seats in Brussels will put a cross next to their council candidate at the same time.
Local elections are taking place in 13 authorities in the region next month with voters in all parts of Yorkshire getting the chance to choose six Euro MPs.
Mr Cameron said: “Looking at the other parties, there are effectively two extremist camps.
“One says ‘We love the European Union’.
“The other says ‘We hate the European Union’.
“One says ‘We want things to stay the same’.
“The other says ‘Let’s just walk away from the EU’.
“But in all this there are three words they are missing, three words that sum up everything we are about in Europe.
“Britain’s. National. Interest. British jobs. British opportunities. British livelihoods.
“And our argument is you don’t maximise those interests by saying everything’s fine in Europe, you don’t maximise those interests by walking away from Europe, you get the best for Britain by rolling up your sleeves and fighting for real change in Europe.”
Mr Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband did not take part in the recent TV debates over the future of Europe which saw Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg go head-t0-head with Ukip counterpart Nigel Farage.
According to polls, Mr Farage emerged the clear winner but Mr Cameron said the party failed to deliver on its promises.
“When it comes to standing up for Britain in Europe, is there anyone you would trust less than a group of Ukip MEPs?
“They talk the talk in Britain - but as soon as they’re on that plane to Brussels they change completely,” he said.
“When they do actually bother to vote, they don’t stand up for Britain indeed their own leader has said they ‘cannot change a thing in Brussels’.”
The Prime Minister was given a fresh reminder of the challenge faced by the Conservatives next month with a new poll showing Ukip support had risen by four points to 15 per cent in the wake of the expenses row involving former Culture Secretary Maria Miller.
But Mr Cameron insisted “apathy” was his main fear in the Euro contest.
He insisted he had already managed to bring in reforms in the EU, such as cutting the budget and vetoing a treaty that was not in Britain’s interests.
“There is no opposition that worries me. What worries me is people being apathetic and thinking you can’t change things in Europe. You can.”
The Liberal Democrats look set to be the only major UK party going into the European elections with an overtly pro-EU stance.
Leader Nick Clegg has positioned the Lib Dems as the “party of IN” in what is widely seen as an attempt to rally the party’s base and win back some of the supporters who backed him in 2010 but were disillusioned by the decision to go into Coalition at Westminster.
The two elections will be held on May 22.