Dominic Raab has said reports of him paddleboarding on holiday while Kabul fell are “nonsense” because he was working and the sea was actually “closed”.
The Foreign Secretary faced strong criticism for not returning from Crete when the situation in Afghanistan began to deteriorate and the Taliban took control of Kabul.
Mr Raab has said he left to return to the UK on Sunday August 15, and that he was “working tirelessly” throughout that period despite being out of the country.
The Times reported that witnesses said they saw Mr Raab swimming and using a paddleboard on the last day of his holiday.
Speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, Mr Raab said: “The stuff about me being lounging around on the beach all day is just nonsense. The stuff about me paddleboarding – nonsense. The sea was actually closed, it was a red notice.”
And questioned on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about claims that his department asked him to return home on Friday August 13, Mr Raab said: “I was not asked by my officials. I was not directed home.”
He went on: “I’m not going to add any more to the speculation in the media. What I can tell you is that from that period I was engaged from a hotel room, my family was on the beach, not me. I checked in on them episodically, but the idea that I was lounging on the beach is just nonsense.”
However he did admit that with the benefit of hindsight, “of course I would have come back, I probably wouldn’t have gone on leave at all, but we deal with the assessments that we are given”.
He added: “The pace of the Taliban takeover, I think, even caught the Taliban by surprise.”
The stuff about me paddleboarding is nonsense.— Haggis_UK ?? ?? (@Haggis_UK) August 25, 2021
“The sea was closed” pic.twitter.com/oMypG9W3jy
Well as you can imagine this excuse went down like a lead balloon on social media.
Raab: ‘The sea was closed.’ pic.twitter.com/ljRtaXkYmR— Tim Walker (@ThatTimWalker) August 25, 2021
The sea was closed that day.— GlennyRodge (@GlennyRodge) August 25, 2021
I was in Pizza Express in Woking
That money was just resting in my account. https://t.co/UE5CAHoIsh
I wonder if ‘The sea was actually closed’ will be remembered as prominently as an alibi as ‘It was almost impossible for me to sweat’. https://t.co/iDBMSYtAbK— dan barker (@danbarker) August 25, 2021
sorry I didn’t reply to your whatsapp, the sea was closed x— Joe Middleton (@joejsmiddleton) August 25, 2021
It’s not often you can pinpoint when a new phrase enters the vocabulary but ‘The sea was closed’ is one such occasion.— Nick Pettigrew (@Nick_Pettigrew) August 25, 2021
This one time, at Government camp, I claimed the sea was closed. pic.twitter.com/Lr4ctUaDcs— Ishan Kolhatkar (@ishkolhatkar) August 25, 2021
Raab’s drowning not swimming’ https://t.co/HI6z2voXJ7— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) August 25, 2021
“I once told the nation that I couldn’t go paddle boarding that day because the sea was closed” pic.twitter.com/jR5Wabzjvp— Dave (@davechannel) August 25, 2021
“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors”— Dr. Jennifer Cassidy (@OxfordDiplomat) August 25, 2021
“Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future”
– John F. Kennedy
“The sea was closed”
– Dominic Raab
‘The truth of the matter is that Moses came along and first parted the sea that day and then closed it.’ pic.twitter.com/lnO2BgYh0Q— Tim Walker (@ThatTimWalker) August 25, 2021
i was the one who told dominic raab the sea was closed. i put a hand-made sign on the beach seconds before he got there and snickered at him from behind a palm tree as he believed it. on his way back he ran into a wall i’d painted a tunnel on and made a growling sound— thomas usher stan account (@joelgolby) August 25, 2021
You’re laughing? Dominic Raab says he wouldn’t have been able to go paddle boarding because the sea was closed on his holiday and you’re laughing. pic.twitter.com/V4uooevhMt— Kirsten (@blessedorkirst) August 25, 2021
"The sea was actually closed"…it's not now, get in it with all your mates Dom! pic.twitter.com/U1CNIN2PON— Stu Robson (@Roppa77) August 25, 2021
In 2016 the sea was not closed— Toby Earle (@TobyonTV) August 25, 2021
In 2017 the sea was not closed
In 2018 the sea was not closed
In 2019 the sea was not closed
In 2020 the sea was not closed
In 2021 the sea *was* closed pic.twitter.com/YF8mNOETeP
‘The sea was actually closed.’ pic.twitter.com/hxFHmGxa2v— Eddie Burfi (@EddieBurfi) August 25, 2021
Related: Post-Brexit food shortages ‘worst I’ve seen’, Co-op boss says