The move has been applauded by Brexiteers – but others describe the Home Office’s announcement as “embarrassing”.
British passports issued after the UK leaves the European Union will no longer be burgundy and gold, the Home Office has announced. Instead, they will be dark blue and gold – the same colours they were before the UK joined the EU.
Burgundy passports will still be issued after 29 March 2019, the first day of Brexit, but they will no longer bear any references to the EU. All new British passports will be dark blue from October 2019, when the government’s current passport manufacturers’ contract expires.
The Home Office said that UK citizens will still be able to use their burgundy EU passports until they expire. However, people who just can’t wait that long to travel back in time will be able to request a new blue passport as soon as they are introduced, even if their burgundy passport hasn’t run out.
The move to bring back blue passports has received a rapturous reception from pro-Brexit MPs and the right-wing press. The Sun, which had been campaigning for the government to ditch the burgundy passports it said had been “enforced on the nation” by the EU, described the announcement as a “stunning Brexit victory”.
“One of the most iconic things about being British is having a British passport,” immigration minister Brandon Lewis told the tabloid.
He added: “We wanted to return to the dark blue passport because we recognise the strong attachment people had to it.”
Tory MP Michael Fabricant, meanwhile, said: “Our passports are iconic of our national identity… I am delighted that we will be reverting back to our old blue colour which was changed when we all became citizens of the EU.”
Andrew Rosindell, a Conservative MP who earlier this year bemoaned “the humiliation of having a pink European Union passport”, rejoiced at the Home Office’s announcement.
“A great Christmas present for those who care about our national identity,” he wrote on Twitter. “The fanatical Remainers hate it, but the restoration of our own British passport is a powerful symbol that Britain is Back!”
On the other side of Twitter, however, the response to the news was less enthusiastic. Labour MP David Lammy decried the reintroduction of blue passports as an embarrassment.
This whole passport thing is so embarrassing. Brexit is beginning to feel like a huge effort to turn the clock back 100 years with some misguided imperial overtones. I much prefer my current passport with the free inbuilt bonus feature of visa-free travel to European countries. https://t.co/of3FYe2IMV— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) December 22, 2017
Lammy was not the only person to observe that blue passports seem symbolic of a desire to turn back time – or to note that a different cover feels like poor compensation for losing the benefits EU membership provides.
Other Twitter users noted that blue passports will only feel like a return of “national identity” for people old enough to remember the old passports, which were phased out in 1988. For younger people, it will feel like a loss.
Don’t actually care if my passport’s blue or hot pink or leopard print, but as far as I can tell the only point in changing it is to tell older people that their experience of being British is more legit than that of younger people— Andrzej Łukowski (@MrLukowski) December 22, 2017
Still more pointed out that the UK could always have had blue passports if it wanted: the EU has never enforced burgundy documents, only recommended them. Croatia, for example, is a member of the EU but still issues blue passports.
Small but relevant fact: We could always have had blue passports. The EU never forced is to have red ones. Other EU States have blue passports. Our UK Government decided on burgundy. 👇https://t.co/lVEwhU9Ogo https://t.co/xMNospgwUA— Stephen #PeoplesVote #FinalSay #OFOC #JC4P45 🇪🇺 (@TheStephenRalph) December 21, 2017
Finally, a growing number of Twitter users suggested that the whole thing could be nothing more than a distraction, intended to divert attention from increasingly chaotic Brexit negotiations. On Thursday – the day before the Home Office announced the new passports – the government was criticised for failing to provide sufficient information to MPs about how it was preparing for Brexit.
Lord Jay, acting chair of the Lord Brexit committee, said that newly published civil service reports were “inconsistent in approach and in the use of statistics” and contained “little overarching analysis by the government” into the impact of leaving the EU.
Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat’s Brexit spokesman, described the government’s reports as “binders of old information, extracts from Wikipedia, and a few choice quotes, and yet nothing at all on how Brexit will hit each sector.
“Now the government’s woeful failure to prepare for Brexit has been laid bare in front of the whole country,” he said.
In addition, an investigation by The Independent found that Brexit secretary David Davis has yet to fill almost one in four posts at the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU), leading Labour to criticise the operation as “utterly disorganised” and “underpowered”.than a distraction, intended to divert attention from the chaotic Brexit negotiations.
It’s blatently done for news spin to cover up David Davis shambles yesterday. Get everyone riled up about a sodding passport, not that we’re hanging by a thread when we leave the EU!— lunalightdust (@Appledust7) December 22, 2017
Can't help but think the 'blue passport' news is a distraction to take the attention away from how rubbish Brexit talks seem to be going generally.— Karløs Stringer (@demonkarlos) December 22, 2017
The real kicker? There’s a chance the new blue passports could be manufactured in the EU. Keep doing your thing, Brexit!
Images: iStock / Home Office / Rex Features