For the first time since 1988, the passport of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is returning to its original blue.
The document, in itself a symbol of national identity, has been burgundy red since the country entered the European Union. To this day, red passports are still being issued by Her Majesty’s Passport Office, despite the government’s full committal to Brexit and withdrawal from the E.U. The new blue passports, without European Union branding, will be available for people applying for or renewing passports starting October 2019.
The previous UKIP leader and member of European Parliament, Nigel Farage, retweeted the news with the caption “Happy Brexmas!” The prominent Brexiter, often acknowledged as the primary architect of the Brexit campaign, celebrated the return of a passport independent of the Union.
In the 2016 referendum, we wanted our passports back. Now we've got them back! 🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/9cS8TMzX9k
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) December 22, 2017
Various figures, including members of Parliament, have celebrated the new color. The blue marks a significant aesthetic shift, disassociating the country with the traditionally red documents of most European nations and linking the U.K. with the blue passports of Commonwealth countries such as Canada and Australia.
On the other hand, various critics of Brexit have commented on the comparative weaknesses that the new passport will face, pointing out that, after leaving the E.U., British citizens will no longer have access to the unrestricted travel and work opportunities in fellow Union nations that they previously possessed.
“You can have a maroon passport that allows you to travel freely across 28 countries, or a blue one which allows you to travel freely through one. Which do you prefer?”
The fool: “Blue one, please”
— David Schneider (@davidschneider) December 22, 2017
“What does this new passport do?”
“Can I use it to travel freely and work in 26 neighbouring countries?”
“No – but look, it’s blue.”
— John O'Farrell (@mrjohnofarrell) December 22, 2017
UK citizens under 30 have never had a blue passport, but many will miss the right to live & work in the EU which their burgundy passports convey – I’ve written to Brandon Lewis asking him to turn his attention to the practical consequences of Brexit for UK citizens
— Helen Hayes (@helenhayes_) December 22, 2017
On another note yet, the passport has been more mockingly criticized for the shade of blue that was chosen which, despite pro-Brexit cries of returning to traditional symbols, is quite unlike that of the pre-1988 and pre-E.U. British passports. Critics include the renowned author, producer and satirist Tony Robinson, as well as political correspondent Michael Crick.
I don’t really care about you the colour of my passport,except 1, The red one would be much easier to find in a drawer and 2, That blue is a really shite colour.
— Tony Robinson (@Tony_Robinson) December 22, 2017
Why does BBC keep banging on about “return” to old blue passport. New passport is nothing like the old blue, which was almost black.
— Michael Crick (@MichaelLCrick) December 22, 2017
Other reactions to the announcement proclaim that “a country that obsesses over the color of its passport must have a rather sketchy grasp of its own identity” and the revelation that no European Union regulation controls the color nor the contents or arrangements of a member nation’s passports. The passport, which is controlled, created and designed exclusively by a country’s home office, could have been unilaterally changed in shade independently of a withdrawal of the E.U.
Furthermore, the estimated cost of £500 million to change the design, on top of thousands of minute yet expensive bureaucratic changes that leaving the E.U. would require has been strongly opposed by advocates of more productive social spending.
So when the jobs have gone and the hospitals are closed. When the schools are overcrowded and only the rich can afford good education. When food banks are rife and the welfare state is cut to shreds. You can proudly hold up your blue passport and say to your kids it was worth it
— Con O'Neill (@cononeilluk) December 22, 2017
The new blue passport, a “powerful symbol” that has resonated with supporters of British imperial legacy, will start being introduced in the later months of 2019.
From May 2019, when Britain ultimately leaves the European Union at then end of negotiations, a variation of the red passport (with E.U. symbols removed) will be available.
Her Majesty’s Passport Office has stressed that the new passports will be introduced in waves and that U.K. citizens needn’t worry about replacing their current passports until their intended date of expiry, which is marked inside.