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Prince of Darkness enters fray as PM warns that even families will split

Here are five things we learned from the EU referendum campaign on Thursday:

:: That great fuss about pro-Brexit ministers being denied access to official papers - well it is all just a storm in a teacup, it turns out. Or at least according to Whitehall's most senior mandarin it is. Outer ministers may have been spitting tacks about "unconstitutional acts" while the top official at the Northern Ireland Office even suggested his Secretary of State - Leave campaigner Theresa Villiers - might have to resort to the Freedom of Information Act to find out what her own civil servants were up. But when Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, appeared before a committee of MPs he said he could not understand why everyone was getting so excited. His ban, he explained, merely applied to "briefing material and speech material" directly related to the referendum. For the rest, the Brexiters would receive the usual "limousine service", he purred. Committee chairman Bernard Jenkin welcomed what he politely called Sir Jeremy's "clarification". Privately "outers" were claiming a complete capitulation by the man the papers call "Sir Cover-up".

:: The EU referendum is tearing families apart, according to David Cameron. "This will be a decision and a choice that divides many people, many communities, sometimes even families," he said at a Downing Street reception. Who could he have had in mind? Possibly his EU nemesis Boris Johnson, who has been a prominent Brexit supporter even though his father Stanley and brother Jo - a Government minister - back remaining in the EU.

:: It is not just the Johnsons who find themselves at odds over Europe - it is also re-opening old wounds in the wider Tory family. George Osborne was given a rough ride from his own side when he became the latest minister to step into the bear pit of the Commons to spell out the perils of leaving. The Chancellor, however insisted he would not be drawn into "blue-on-blue" combat. "I take the Ronald Reagan 11th commandment which is I won't speak ill of a Conservative," he told his tormentors. Good luck with sticking to that one all the way to June 23.

:: Pro-leave ministers may be unhappy at the lack of access to official papers, but Lord Mandelson believes they should be happy to have a job at all. The Labour grandee, dubbed the Prince of Darkness, said the Prime Minister should have got tough with Cabinet colleagues who refused to back him on Europe and given them the order of the boot. "Usually when members of a government go against ministerial collective responsibility and the will of the Cabinet, they receive one paper - and that's their P45," he declared.

:: Lord Mandelson - a former EU trade commissioner - also offered an insight into the cut-throat world of international negotiations. In a warning of what might happen if the UK left the EU, giving it no say in the running of the single market, he told a City of London audience: "If you are not at the table, you are often on the menu." He also spoke of the advantages of being inside a 500 million consumer bloc, because "in trade negotiations, size matters". In fact, being full members of the EU single market gave the UK "Free Trade Extra Plus - much more powerful than an aspirin".


From Belfast Telegraph