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by Alain Tolhurst
01 September 2021
Downing Street denies Boris Johnson is on holiday

Tim Ireland/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Downing Street denies Boris Johnson is on holiday

Downing Street has denied Boris Johnson is on holiday as the aftermath of the chaotic Afghanistan evacuation unfolds, but have confirmed he is currently away from No.10 for five days.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Johnson left Downing Street on Sunday with his family and will return on Thursday, but that it is not a vacation and he "is continuing to work".

Final British flights left Kabul on Saturday night, and US troops left on Sunday night, ahead of the 31 August deadline amid security concerns. 

Hundreds of UK citizens remain in Afghanistan. The UK ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Laurie Bristow, insisted efforts would contine to evacuate those left as he returned to England on Sunday. 

"The Prime Minister is away for the next two days in the West of England but he is continuing to work, and will be back in the office in Downing Street on Thursday,” Johnson's official spokesperson said on Tuesday. 

But they dismissed suggestion the Prime Minister was on holiday.

"He is away, out of the office for a couple of days, but he is working," they added.

Both Johnson and foreign secretary Dominic Raab have already faced criticism for not immediately returning to Whitehall as the Taliban made lightning progress in taking the Afghan capital Kabul earlier this month.

The PM returned from a trip to Somerset after one day, while Raab came back from a resort in Crete late on Sunday, 15 August amid claims he was asked to return two days earlier.

The spokesperson evaded questions over whether it was appropriate for the Johnson to be away from No.10 as the government continues work to evacuate those remaining UK nationals left in Afghanistan after the final Western troops have left.

"He continues to lead the overall Government response to the situation in Afghanistan,” the spokesperson said, adding that Johnson had spoken to German Chancellor Angela Merkel "at the weekend". 

"He has been leading the work on the efforts with European partners and other countries to put pressure on the Taliban and any emerging Afghanistan Government to stick to the promises that they have made," they continued. 

"We have evacuated more than 15,000 people over a two week period, and continue to set out a generous resettlement scheme for those Afghans to whom we owe a debt."

The spokesperson would not comment on why Johnson had chosen to work away from the main hub of government during a time of crisis. 

 "People are able to work outside of London," they added. 

More coverage at Politics Home.

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