Are David Cameron and Civil Service head Jeremy Heywood subverting the government machine for EU propaganda?

Credit: Reuters

Those who want the UK to leave the EU accuse David Cameron, together with the head of the civil service, Sir Jeremy Heywood of exploiting the might of the public sector's resources and propaganda machine to make the case for staying in Europe.

But that's surely what Cameron and Heywood would be expected to do, given that it is official government policy for Britain to remain in the EU.

In a way, the more extraordinary phenomenon is that the prime minister gave permission to his ministerial colleagues to campaign against him and the official line: it is in the suspension of collective cabinet responsibility on the most important political question of our age where Cameron and Heywood pushed the boundaries of constitutional convention (in order to prevent mass resignations from the cabinet which could have brought the government to its knees).

And when Iain Duncan Smith, the secretary of state for work and pensions, complains that his own officials kept him in the dark about data on tax credit claims by migrants they supplied to 10 Downing Street, he may think that that's unfair and undermines his status in the department - but all he is really doing is highlighting how incredibly challenging it will be for government to function efficiently during the referendum campaign.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood is the UK's top civil servant Credit: PA

As for today's 23-page government paper, "the Process of Withdrawing from the European Union," I've read it and find it difficult to regard it as sensationalist or tendentious.

It is a dry and factual description of how the UK would negotiate withdrawal from the EU, and what deals we would have to put in place with the EU and other associated countries to protect our trade, our policing and security arrangements, and the rights of two million British citizens living in the rest of the EU.

To simply list, as it does, how deeply intertwined we are with the rest of Europe - for our prosperity and safety - is in a way to state the bleedin' obvious.

And I imagine the less emotional members of the Leave campaign will recognise that the Cabinet Office has done them a favour by publishing this practical analysis with four months to go before the referendum - because it gives them plenty of time to come up with a practical route map to replicate the more important arrangements we have with the EU and associated countries for a life outside of the EU.

The paper's list of tariffs that could be imposed on British exports, the usefulness of the European arrest warrant, our reciprocal arrangements to use health services in other EU states, the rights of Britons living in other EU states, inter alia, are a useful checklist of issues to be addressed for leave campaigners.

And what is the most explosive statement made in the official paper - that a vote to leave "could lead to a decade or more of uncertainty"?

If that's as vicious and underhand a statement as the government will make in the coming weeks and months, we may have difficulty staying awake.