IN a sign that David Cameron expects the rush to the line over Britain’s membership of the EU to be a particularly painful and divisive experience for the Conservatives, talk is already rattling around Westminster of a post-vote healing process – a “unity reshuffle” or a “reshuffle of reconciliation”.

Since the dark days of John Major’s government when tensions over Europe helped kill off any chance the Tories had of remaining in office, the Conservative leadership has, in its slow march back to power, largely successfully kept a tight bandage over the festering wound that is the EU.

But in just a week’s time, the Prime Minister could emerge from the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels, home to the European Council, holding a piece of paper, declaring he has sealed the deal.

Labour’s Chris Bryant teased the Eurosceptic Commons Leader Chris Grayling this week when he said once Mr Cameron made his Commons statement after the summit, the bandage would be removed and those UK ministers, who wanted Brexit, would be free to speak their mind.

“Cabinet Ministers will be hurtling down the corridors of power to get to television studios to be the first to go live on air to declare themselves an Outer,” quipped the Shadow Commons Leader.

If Mr Cameron emerges victorious on June 23 – the day earmarked for In/Out Day – then, Government insiders, are talking up the prospect of a major reshuffle.

After a bruising battle, there will be an "overarching need to bring the party together to govern," one senior minister noted.

While there are some senior figures almost certain to defy their leader – Mr Grayling, ex-Thatcher aide and now Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith – others are thought to be swithering – Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary, and Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland Secretary.

Priti Patel, the Employment Minister, who can attend Cabinet when her brief requires it, is an Outer and, among some in the Brexit camp, would do well as the Leave campaign’s leader.

Then there is Boris Johnson, who appears to have been doing his own hokey-kokey on the issue; at one point appearing to be an Inner and at another an Outer.

Of course, allowing talk of a post-vote reshuffle might help Mr Cameron concentrate his colleagues’ minds and persuade them to opt for the In camp or, at least, dissuade them from being too outspoken in denigrating his pro-EU arguments during the referendum campaign.

The revolving door speculation has Mr Johnson, if he is a good boy, getting the job of Home Secretary with the present incumbent Theresa May – once touted as a possible leader of the Brexit campaign but now firmly in the Remain fold - moving to the Foreign Office.

In the spirit of reconciliation, Ms Patel is tipped for a full Cabinet role, possibly replacing Mr Whittingdale at Culture. And in a further move of letting bygones be bygones, ex-Defence Secretary Liam Fox, another Outer, could return to the Cabinet fold.

Of course, this is all premised on Mr Cameron winning the referendum. If he loses, it won’t be him wielding the axe, it will be his colleagues axing him.