Boris Johnson has told civil servants that preparing for a no-deal Brexit must be their “top priority”.
Meanwhile leave for government advisors has been cancelled in the run-up to October 31.
These are sensible instructions, given the gravity of the situation. Presumably only the political advisors have had their leave curtailed, and not the civil servants, because it would be too complicated to alter the latter’s contractual entitlement to a certain amount of paid holiday.
But there was something unreal about the way that holidays at, for example, Stormont went ahead as normal in the summer after the momentous 2016 referendum, and the way that MPs are now off on a five week holiday.
Parliamentary recesses are typically longer than that, but even so you would expect leave to be cut to a fortnight in this near crisis. Short of war, there is no bigger challenge facing Britain than Brexit, particularly if there is no deal.
Societies with lavish leave cultures can be too laid back for their own good. In the US, a mere fortnight’s holiday, in addition six or so public days off is an employee norm. It has a work ethic and is still the world’s richest nation.
Europe, particularly countries such as France, have a serious holiday culture. If they want to take August off ahead of Brexit, fine. After all, some EU figures almost boast that Brexit doesn’t faze them. But British government machinery should be working hard this summer.