Brexit: UK 'can't decide unilaterally' on protocol says Coveney
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David Cameron, the former Tory prime minister responsible for allowing the British people a vote on EU membership, was one of the leading campaigners in the Remain campaign. At the time he commissioned a pro-EU leaflet to be sent to all UK households, at a cost of £9.3million to the UK taxpayer.
The existence of the leaflet was detailed in a recent book, which charts the career of the late Jeremy Heywood – who served as cabinet secretary to Mr Cameron.
The book, written by his wife Suzanne Heywood, charts the lead up to the EU referendum.
It points out the former prime minister set up a Referendum Unit composed of around 30 civil servants in the April before the vote has held.
The group, which allowed the civil service to legitimately provide support to the Government’s side of the debate, was responsible for a “controversial publication”.
The book states: “The Referendum Unit produced several papers including one on Article 50, the mechanism in the European Union treaty that would need to be triggered to enable the UK to leave, and another on the options for the UK outside the EU.
“Their most controversial publication, however, was the leaflet that the Government wanted to send out to all 27 million British households on the case for remaining in the EU.”
It added: “The timing of the leaflet was as tricky as its content.
“Jeremy advised the Prime Minister that it should go out on 11 April, two weeks earlier than the Number 10 political team wanted, so it would be delivered before the start of the ten-week referendum purdah period.
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“The Royal Mail screamed about this change of date, and it didn’t stop the leaflet being controversial because it cost £9.3million and still went out within the purdah period for the local elections. But Jeremy was satisfied it was within the rules.”
At the time, the Government received a huge backlash for producing the leaflet.
Downing Street said the move was a response to polling which showed 85 percent of the public wanted more information from the Government to help them make an informed choice on June 23.
Mr Cameron said he would “make no apologies” for throwing the full weight of the Government behind one side of the argument.
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He said: “It is not, in my view, just legal – I think is it necessary and right.”
The Electoral Commission also responded to the roll out of the pro-EU leaflet.
They said the Government was well within its right to publish material of this kind outside the purdah period – which starts 28 days before the referendum.
A Commission spokeswoman said: “After the referendum on Scottish independence, the Electoral Commission recommended that governments should conduct no taxpayer-funded advertising activity during the regulated period.
“However, Parliament decided not to put any legal restrictions on Government activity until 28 days before the poll, the 27th of May. These are the same rules that were in place for other recent referendums.
“The Electoral Commission is responsible for regulating the rules on spending in the run-up to the EU referendum. The rules on spending apply during the regulated period which starts on 15 April and ends on polling day, 23 June.
|The rules exclude spending that is met out of public funds, which includes spending by the government on the government information booklet.”
‘What Does Jeremy Think? Jeremy Heywood and the Making of Modern Britain’ (Harper Collins, £25) by Suzanne Heywood is out now.
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