Cabinet ministers have sparked confusion about Christmas get-togethers after one urged families to abandon their hopes â while another insisted gatherings are still likely.
If that trend continued then âChristmas in its perhaps fullest sense won't be achievable for any of us this year,â he warned, adding: âPerhaps coming to terms with that now is probably the right approach that we need to take.â
But he was quickly contradicted by Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, who said: âWe obviously want to ensure that families can gather for Christmas. I want to be with my own family for Christmas.â
The split will fuel criticism of indecision at the heart of government, as ministers reject their own scientistsâ call for a new national lockdown â while not ruling it out entirely.
There is pressure for all four UK nations to agree a common stance for the festive season â with some travel across borders âinevitableâ â so families can begin to plan.
But No 10 has rejected the call, with Boris Johnsonâs team torn between the need for restrictions and the fear that people desperate to host their relatives on Christmas Day simply will not comply.
The prime minister is also accused of making a traditional Christmas less likely by refusing to introduce a fresh lockdown earlier â making one in mid-winter more likely.
Mr Buckland told ITVâs Peston programme: âPerhaps those extended gatherings which draw people from different parts of the country, you know I've got family in Wales for example, that may not be possible given the information that is emerging.â
But Mr Jenrick told Sky News a normal Christmas was âextremely importantâ, adding: âWhat we have to do now is to take decisive action now against the virus to give us every possible chance to achieve that â and that is what we are trying to do.â