(Adds comments by spokesman, context)
LONDON, April 27 (Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday there was no guarantee that efforts to save the British steel industry would be successful, trying to manage expectations that the government can save thousands of jobs.
Cameron has said his government will do all it can to secure a buyer for Tata Steel's businesses in Britain, keen to make sure the Indian company's sale of its plants does not leave thousands unemployed just before June's referendum on EU membership.
But speaking in parliament, he underlined the precarious situation of the industry, which has been hurt by cheap Chinese imports, soaring costs and weak demand.
"There is no guarantee of success," Cameron said.
"While I want to do everything we can to secure the future ... we're coping with a massive oversupply, a collapse in prices."
Asked whether the government was preparing the ground for bad news over the possible sale of the plants, Cameron's spokesman said the prime minister was trying to be realistic.
"We're trying to be realistic with people that this is a difficult process ... but we're doing everything we can," the spokesman told reporters.
On Tuesday, Cameron visited a Tata steel works in the Welsh town of Port Talbot and told the management that any sale of its remaining British assets would have to cover the whole of its business and be given sufficient time to take place.
The government has said it is willing to take a 25 percent equity stake in any rescue of Tata Steel's operations and that at least two potential buyers have shown interest.
It has also offered help in lowering the cost of energy for steel works and with workers' pensions to try to save the industry but says its efforts are not linked to the EU referendum on June 23.
Those campaigning to leave the bloc have seized on the crisis, accusing the EU of not doing enough to stop Chinese imports and have blamed the bloc's rules on state aid for preventing government intervention. (Reporting by William James, writing by Elizabeth Piper, editing by Stephen Addison)