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Brexit still far, but UK issues passports without European Union label

UK passports issued from March 30 do not have ‘European Union’ on top, but only mention ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’. The change after decades of membership of the EU has surprised many.

world Updated: Apr 06, 2019 17:06 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
UK,European Union label,Theresa May
Dropping the two words is not the only change in UK passports. Its colour will change from burgundy to blue later in the year, marking a return to the colour first used in 1921. The burgundy red colour was adopted in 1988.(REUTERS)

Brexit has proved to be a veritable bridge too far with the Theresa May government struggling to see it through, but the Home Office has already begun issuing new passports without the words ‘European Union’ on the burgundy-coloured cover.

UK passports issued from March 30 do not have ‘European Union’ on top, but only mention ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’. The change after decades of membership of the EU has surprised many.

The words were dropped because the Home Office assumed that Brexit would happen on schedule on March 29, but events inside and outside the House of Commons have led to continuing uncertainty, with May now seeking extension until June 30.

One Briton who received the new passport with the words missing took to social media to say she is “truly appalled”, while others wondered why, since the UK continues to be a member of the EU until the process is completed.

The Home Office said: “Burgundy passports that no longer include the words ‘European Union’ on the front cover will be introduced from 30 March 2019. Passports that include the words European Union will continue to be issued for a short period after this date” to use leftover stock.

“There will be no difference for British citizens whether they are using a passport that includes the words European Union, or a passport that does not. Both designs will be equally valid for travel,” it added.

Dropping the two words is not the only change in UK passports. Its colour will change from burgundy to blue later in the year, marking a return to the colour first used in 1921. The burgundy red colour was adopted in 1988.

The decision to revert to blue as an expression of the UK’s “independence and sovereignty” led to much debate when it was announced early in the Brexit process, with critics dismissing it as a “Brexit PR stunt” and a “nostalgia stunt”.

Charles Powell, who was foreign policy advisor to former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, mocked the burgundy-to-blue announcement, describing the claim as “nostalgia driven by ageing Eurosceptics”.

Referring to those hailing the announcement, Powell remarked: “So long as they are content with symbols, rather than substance, I see no harm in letting them have their way. Perhaps we should go the whole hog and reintroduce ambassadorial dress uniforms, as well as bowler hats and stiff collars for senior civil servants.”

Labour MP Chuka Umunna added: “What utter nonsense. This belittles our country and your office,” while former party leader Ed Miliband said: “It is an expression of how mendacious, absurd and parochial we look to the world.”

First Published: Apr 06, 2019 16:57 IST