The British Passport – A Rhapsody In Blue

April 2019 – The first UK passports without the wording “European Union” have appeared. They are made in the EU, and still burgundy red before turning blue in the autumn. The UK is still in the EU, of course, before being kicked out in the summer!


(original post 30/12/17)

If you thought that the passport saga instigated by the wonderful Mrs May couldn’t get any worse, it has. Now, it’s the turn of the EU to not appreciate the true beauty of colour. If all goes to plan, the EU is going to delay all unfortunate holders of Theresa May’s “iconic” blue passport, at a major airport, near you. Knowing that this government is not immune to the odd error or two, the refurbished UK passport will probably be of the phosphorescent blue type. Anyone carrying such a gem will be spotted by immigration officials whilst desperately trying to extract that 5th piece of luggage from their car, parked in the airport long-term car park.

If you’ve been following Brexit instead of Coronation Street or Eastenders, you’ll know that the poor old Brexpat/EU citizen (that’s me) – caught in the deep bog of the Brexit morass – has been officially transformed from a bargaining chip into a French fry. This occurred after phase 1 of the Brexit negotiations, in case you hadn’t noticed. Thinner and more elegant than its Burger King counterpart, the fries from Monsieur Mac are still made of spuds and just as vulnerable to the pouring of boiling oil from Brussels and London.

I deeply fear that, for the innocent French fry, covered in suntan oil and sleeping it off in Marbella, it won’t be a case of “oil’s well that ends well.” The only way that he can stay in the queue with his beautiful Hispanic wife is if the immigration official happens to be colour-blind.



Nostalgia isn’t what it was


The return of the blue passport is described as being, “part of the nostalgia on which the predominantly elderly Brexit constituency thrives,” by one of Margaret Thatcher’s foreign policy advisors. Well, I’m surprised that any of Maggie’s advisors are still alive and well. Nostalgia isn’t what it was anymore and there’s nothing more rewarding than pleasing sweet old ladies who went to the polling booths in the pouring rain, on that fateful Thursday afternoon.

So this is what Brexit was really all about, – the colour of a passport, and the retrieval of an identity that was never lost in the first place. That’s what Theresa May – remainer par excellence during the referendum campaign – was up to. She reminds me of a spoiled child who doesn’t want to eat his chips because they are the wrong shape. He does not realize that there are plenty of children in the world who would only be too pleased to eat them, even cold.

To tell you the truth, I don’t actually care about the colour of a passport because I fail to see its relevance in defining the true values of a nation. In any case, colour is a subjective experience. For me, the colour of the new passport is much closer to that of the EU flag than a powerful reminder of days gone by. This is especially true for those who remember what the old passport actually looked like – a blue colour that was so much like black, that a lot of people still think that the iconic passport was black.

The proposed colour of the UK passport, post-Brexit, is much less important than Theresa May’s accompanying inflammatory words and the future absence of two words on the passport cover. These words (European Union) symbolise one of the truly exceptional feats of our time – the union of hitherto warring nations, and the freedom of movement of their people. The Croatian passport is also blue but reflects the will of its people, who have deeply suffered in the past, to show a spirit of compromise and allegiance to a European ideal. It is possible that Croatia issues burgundy passports in the future, to put itself in line with other EU member states, but will not be forced to do so.

There is no EU legislation dictating passport colour. The UK could have had any passport colour it wanted and stay in the EU. – Guy Verhofstadt

The EU’s response was no less childish than the UK’s, reflecting the bickering that occurs during a divorce. We are quarreling about who is going to keep old gramophone records and are not interested in what is going to happen to the house and, even less, to our children.

In threatening to make life difficult for British citizens travelling through European airports, the EU is, once again, ignoring the rights of citizens whom it is supposed to protect. Many families, living in EU-27 states, will be separated at airports, due to the colour of a travel document. And what will the custom officials do in the case of an Italian mother travelling alone with her British baby? Will the baby have to queue alone in the “slow lane?” This all sounds suspiciously like pay-back time on the part of the EU. “It all depends on the trade negotiations,” seems to be the line adopted, underscoring the fact that millions of citizens are still caught in the cross-fire between London and Brussels. So much for phase 1 of the negotiations.

Ironically, the UK may not even have the capability of printing its own passport. The management of something “so very English”, by foreigners, reminds me of the time when the English national football team wanted to conquer the world. Incapable of finding an English manager, they chose a Swede and later, an Italian. Both had no influence on the dire way the English played a game that they invented.

For Jacob Rees-Mogg, “symbolism is important,” and he hopes that the passport will be printed in the UK 1. If the passport has to obey EU rules for its tendering, it probably won’t. Not obeying the rules would mean that UK citizens on the continent would not only be deprived of the fast track for getting through customs, but would probably have to walk the whole way to their holiday destination. As for symbolism, two can play at that game. My burgundy red passport expires in 2023 and I have no intention of renewing it, unless the EU and UK clean up their act and get serious about protecting EU citizens.

Theresa May, who not so long ago was preaching the benefits of EU membership, is now laying the first stone of Britain’s retreat from the EU. It’s a foundation based on pride and prejudice – pride at being English, and prejudice toward the EU. An English novel, if ever there was one.

The UK prime minister can try to convince me that leaving the Union is beneficial for the UK, even in the long-term. I just don’t believe her. She can spread her empty rhetoric until she goes blue in the face. At least then, the colour of her face will match the colour of her passport, as she flies off to Switzerland for her holidays, with a blue passport in one hand, a visum in the other, and carrying a load of broken promises in her rucksack.


  1. Bad luck Jacob, the passport is made in the EU!