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.
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.
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.
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.
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.