A Bit of Blue: Brexit and the British Passport
On the 23rd June 2016, 51.9% of the electorate voted for the UK to leave the European Union, and from that point on, the term ‘Brexit’ was coined. It was also the point that uncertainty and confusion reigned throughout the country, as everybody from school teachers to factory workers, European visitors to lifelong British citizens wondered what was going to happen in all aspects of the running of the country.
One of the key talking points to emerge from Brexit is the Government’s decision to change the design of the UK passport from the familiar burgundy design that has operated for 30 years, to the old school blue design that was first issued in 1921, and will return in the autumn of 2019. It has split the Left and Right wings of politics even more than usual.
A Controversial Decision
There has been outrage from many circles – particularly the Tory Brexiteers – in regards to the decision by the Home Office to hire French company Gemalto to design the blue Brexit passport, rather than keep the UK-based firm De La Rue on board. The latter company have produced the existing burgundy passport for decades, and the decision to axe them has bewildered and angered people across the board.
De La Rue are said to be axing hundreds of jobs as a result of the decision, which seems to many to be the exact opposite of what should be happening in a post-Brexit UK. The general consensus is that British companies should be the ones that benefit from the UK leaving the EU, not European countries. However, the Home Office still have to consider bids from non-UK based companies, which has led to the potentially embarrassing (for the Home Office, at least) decision to see a UK passport being taken away from a UK based company and handed over to a European based one.
The Home Office have addressed the situation, commenting through a spokesperson that “the chosen company demonstrated that they will be best able to meet the needs of our passport service with a high-quality and secure product at the best value for money for our customers and the taxpayer.”
It opens up an interesting debate: Should the UK-based firm have been chosen purely as a statement of intent from the Home Office to focus on keeping British jobs and work within British companies, or does the quality, security and value for money mentioned in the statement take precedence over blind patriotism? Just like every other aspect of Brexit, you can guarantee that there will be interesting and passionate arguments from both sides.
When Does the Blue Passport Come into Play?
Brexit kicks in from 29th March 2019, but this doesn’t mean that the entire countries passports will suddenly become defunct, like some kind of apocalyptic, Skynet-esque event. The good news for travellers from the UK is that the Brexit passport will only come into play once your existing passport runs out after that date, so there is no need to panic about renewing your passport and paying out for changes to UK passports with years left on them.
The Home Office have confirmed that new applications and renewals after October 2019 will instantly be issued as the new blue versions, which – aside from the colour changes – will have the words European Union removed from the front cover and opening page of the British passport. The Government has also stated that a new design feature will be a “super-strength plastic polycarbonate material that will be more difficult to alter”, which will be featured on the page where the owner’s photograph can be found.
How much will the Blue Passport Cost?
The bad news for Brexit passport owners is that there will be a price hike of £12.50 from £72.50 to £85 for renewals and applications made via post, whereas online applications will only increase £3 to £72.50. While this prompted grumbles from the general public, it is worth noting that the new and improved Brexit passport will have state of the art security features in place that will make forgeries virtually impossible, and therefore all but eradicate the possibility of passport fraud.
The major cost from the change of passport may come when it comes to book a holiday post 29th March, a number of the big players in travel – including Thomas Cook, TUI and Jet2 to name just a few – have confirmed that they will still be booking European holidays in the post-Brexit marketplace. However, they have been far less forthcoming in regards to what the financial cost will be, if any. This is likely to make holidaymakers who jet off to Spain, Greece or any other European destination during the summer months a little wary. The fact that Expedia have declined to promote any holidays following the 29th March date is a sign that things could get interesting – and more than a little chaotic – in the post Brexit world.
So… What now?
Your burgandy passport will still be valid until October 2019, so try not to panic too much about the Brexit passport changes, which on the surface do seem to be pointless and damaging to the Home Office’s reputation, yet can also be seen as a way of the United Kingdom taking back a part of their national identity from the European Union.
From now until the day you reissue or apply for your new blue passport, it would be a good idea to try and keep up with all the news and developments in regards to Brexit, from now until the leave date of the 29th March. There will almost certainly be more surprises to come, and the more clued up you are on proceedings, the more you can prepare for the changes.
In the meantime, get as much mileage out of your existing UK passport as possible, and enjoy the fruits of our union with Europe while you still have the chance and while they’re still relatively simple to follow.