Does it matter what colour your passport is?

My reaction to the news the other day that blue passports were going to be coming back after Brexit was one of frustration and annoyance.

I am not young by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve never had an old style passport. My first one, issued in 1993, was the burgundy European Union one.

It’s not the colour change that upsets me so much but what it symbolises. Those words European Union signify openness and co-operation. That translates into meaningful rights for me as a citizen. It means that I can travel freely across the EU. It means that I am part of something that protects my rights – even when my own Governments, Scottish and UK, seek to undermine them.

I absolutely cherish those words. The change in passport colour symbolises a retreat from those values.

Tom Brake made the point the other day that there is a huge financial cost to each of us that he put at £721 per passport. That’s based on a £35 billion settlement to the EU divided by 48.5 million passport holders. He said:

Brexit means the cost of flights going up, holidays becoming more expensive and UK citizens losing the right to live and work freely in Europe. But at least we get a blue passport.

With the blue passport being Brexit’s sole achievement so far, that works out at a cool £721 per person per passport.

Nigel Farage gets to tick off one of his big asks from Brexit. Meanwhile, this is little consolation to millions of young people who will be more restricted in where they can live and work, or to the thousands of businesses and services with staff looking at uncertain futures.

All of which is absolutely right. However, in the New Year, I think we should continue to highlight the financial cost, but major on a wider range of the practical implications of Brexit to our lives. It’s not just about money. We need to be saying stuff that will emotionally resonate with people. If you are on a low income, chances are you can’t afford to get a passport and you certainly can’t afford to go abroad. However, it does matter if you lose your rights at work because of Brexit. How long will it be before people like Boris are telling us that if we are going to be competitive in this low regulation world, we have to have similar levels of workers’ rights to places like Singapore.  Similarly, the Tories’ track record on social security is woeful and benefits for the poorest will be the first to be cut when they have less money to play with post Brexit. They simply don’t get why social security is necessary and they have a view of deserving and undeserving poor that wasn’t acceptable in Victorian times and certainly isn’t in 21st century Britain.

So this passport stuff does matter. I will go on fighting to retain my EU citizenship and all that it means for all of us.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Unlike most things we are being told relating to leaving the EU the misinformation about the format and colour of the previous British passport is easier to refute: The image on this link looks the same as my old ones

  • OnceALibDem 24th Dec '17 - 2:34pm

    Burgundy passports were first issued in 1988 so this is a decision of the 1980s government. Defend Thatcher’s legacy!!! Keep the Burgundy passports say I!

  • Tom Brake really does like to play the fake numbers game. Using Tom’s logic, we’ve been EU citizens with a maroon passport since the Maastricht sign-up.

    So coughing up about £11 billion (Net) for our EU membership fee per year multiplied by about 25 years, comes to £275 billion. £275 billion divided by 48.5 million comes to about £5665 each.

    So if Tom’s math method is appropriate:
    Ownership of a maroon passport has cost us a staggering £5665 each.
    Ownership of a blue passport will cost us a mere £721 each.
    Isn’t it great fun playing with numbers?

    My passport runs to 2021, but I’m seriously considering a ‘dog ate my maroon EU passport’ claim, to get my hands on a new blue one, maybe a year earlier.

  • David Evershed 24th Dec '17 - 3:28pm

    I had a dark blue passport before we joined the Common Market in 1972.

    Prior to 1972 we could also travel and work freely in Europe. I went on holiday in Belgium, France, Spain, and Portugal and worked in West Germany, all without the need for any VISA. I just had to show my dark blue passport at customs.

  • LORENZO CHERIN 24th Dec '17 - 4:33pm

    The colour of the passport is as pointless a change as so much is with regard to Brexit, yet Caron, is wrong to worry about the travel, as we are free citizens of this country , and thus travel to and into and back from any country that is free in a way as ever.

    Why not celebrate the values of Magna Carta and Habeas Corpus, of the mother of parliaments, the rights of man, on liberty, and all the ways and means this great cherisher and promoter of the very concepts alluded to here more than any country in Europe, in a liberal democratic soft Brexit, or whatever emerges we can have a say in.

    Despair at the colour of a passport, or thinking negatively about our country’s traditions is not necessary . We have a very poor and weak government. We need to be positive about a very good and decent country.

  • OnceALibDem 24th Dec '17 - 4:45pm

    David – would that be because of the UKs membership of EFTA?

    As it stands at the moment, ie without a specific agreement, there will be no visa free travel to EU27 countries when the UK leaves the EU. I very much suspect that will not be the case as there is a lot of mutual benefit to that. But – and its a huge but given the issue of immigration in this context. Why is any country going to give citizens of the UK benefits of visa free travel that isn’t reciprocated.

  • @OnceALibDem

    The answer of cause is they won’t, but David and Co can’t concede that because if they did their image of themselves as being superior people will suffer. I mean you have Brexit posters that are obsessed with immigration but don’t like the fact that their fears are driven by fear of other people, no it’s about the green belt or too many doctors leaving Bulgaria. We all try to put ourselves in the best light but the Brexiteers need is much greater than most peoples, they need to feel special both as individuals and as a group, truly to them “you are an Englishman, and have subsequently drawn the greatest prize in the lottery of life.”. The best I can say of several of the Brexit posters on here, is time has moved on and they haven’t, of some other I’m afraid I have much less charitable view.

  • Andrew McCaig 24th Dec '17 - 5:23pm

    Seems to me that our wonderful new dark blue passport is going to look most similar to the American one! And certainly not very like the pre-EU British passport (thankfully! It was inconveniently large and stiff!)

    It does rather sum up the Brexiteers I am afraid that they seemingly care so much about the colour of a travel document!

  • Frankie the seer band mind reader, again but this time we were spared is usual spiel about unicorns and Tinkerbelle.

  • OnceALibDem 24th Dec '17 - 5:48pm

    “It was inconveniently large and stiff!”

    Well that’s made my Christmas! 🙂

  • No, it doesn’t

  • “European Union” is being deleted from the top of the front cover and any other EU references apparently – as per the colour, probably best to be anything different that is reasonable, if not part of the EU. 🙂

  • “‘Europe’s nations should be guided towards a super state without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps each disguised as having an economic purpose, but which will eventually and irreversibly lead to federation.'” – “attributed to Jean Monnet’s opinion, founder of the EU” = that kind of sentiment is why many, including myself, are happy to be leaving. 🙂

  • P.S. As I was saying yesterday in a conversation “hope is a fatal thing – when people can now see the finish line coming up, by such tokens as their own nations’ passport without “EU” written on top”, persuading people to continue in the status quo they did not want, may become almost impossible.” – peace and best wishes to all for the new year. 🙂

  • “I can well believe that you (and others as credulous) are happy to leave on the basis of lies.” – you are rude and insulting Martin – I refuse to respond to someone like you and am going to recommend now to the site admin that they delete your post.

  • (reported)

  • Yeovil Yokel 24th Dec '17 - 10:24pm

    Perhaps you need to double-check your facts, Facts.

  • @Yeovil – Perhaps the real question, is if certain people in this forum actually want to play the ball, or the man.

    I can probably give a very large amount of strong supporting evidence regarding the EU’s aim to become a superstate – and in any case, surely it is now plain for all to see: after all it is in nowadays’ recent news for anyone to hear from Guy Verhofstadt and Martin Schulz – etc. and have studied/learned about how we got to the current situation: anthem / parliament(s) / president(s) / law-making / currency, etc., etc. – what has that got to do remotely with being solely a trading block?

    Additionally, I have also personally studied/learned about the initial pre-EU setup (not to mention that I studied politics for a couple of years as part of my formal education, etc.).

  • P.S. I forgot to add to the list, that the EU of course, has its own flag as well – probably I could carry on researching and listing the EU’s attributes of state – surely the list given is enough? 🙂

  • At last the beleaguered Brexiteers have reinforcements, they have sent in “Facts”. I’m glad to see you “Facts” hopefully your cut and paste comments will help turn the tide. It was really getting ugly for your fellow Brexiteers they’d been reduced to “I want Norway but with immigration controls”, “The tribe everything for the tribe, the tribe is everything”, “Fake news” and “In the Year of our Lord 1972 I worked in Europe, so I don’t see why it can’t be done now” the only thing they could agree on was “UK Gud, EU Bad”. Still with your intellectual rigor everything will change, well it will as long as no one points out your facts may not be Facts, because you don’t seem to take that very well and I fear if facts have such a bad effect on you, you won’t be here long.

    Facts my dear “Facts” are to Brexiteers what iron is to faeries, how they make you scream, how they make you squeal. The bad news is 2018 is likely to be even more fact packed; they will have to rename the Brexiteer Wind-band the Squeal Orchestra.

    Perhaps I’m being too hard on you “Facts”, perhaps you are the Brexiteer of legend, the one with the Plan. Please enlightens us all of the “Plan” we have been waiting for years for it (as have your fellow Brexiteers).

  • Well said, Lorenzo. You seem to one of the few who appreciates our country and its proud traditions. I apologise for the rest.

  • Facts’
    There is no point in arguing with that gentleman. He’s basically a set ticks an twitches on auto-pilolet

  • “He’s basically a set ticks an twitches on auto-pilolet”… and I’m shtone chold soober!

  • Arnold Kiel 25th Dec '17 - 8:24am

    The funniest thing about the ridiculously irrelevant passport-color news was your PM’s wording of it. I thought she was responsible for her citizens’ real wellbeing, but she has long settled for cheap emotional point-scoring (rarely succeeding). What a christ-mess this country is in.

  • I’m sorry, and Facts’ quotes may not be truthfully grounded, but the EU’s own visitor centre displays a plaque with the statement – “National sovereignty is the root cause of the most crying evils of our times….The only final remedy for this evil is the federal union of the peoples.”

    A federal union is the EU’s intention, and all that that entails, but, once again I have to ask, will any LibDem campaign highlight this intention in any re-run of the referendum?

    Barring the Monnet-attributed quote, a pro-EU majority of all three main UK parties has signed up the UK people to numerous treaties without the full endorsement of the UK people, and dragged us along without making us aware of what those treaties entailed.

    I often hear the outpourings of EU supporters bewailing the fact that they don’t recognise the UK in which they live now; but the country has always been there, it is just that the UK people have never been allowed to have a say on the EU’s chosen path.

    The cat is out of the bag now though, a United States of Europe is what the EU’s guiding lights are calling for, and if the pro-EU camp in any upcoming ref2 don’t inform the UK population of this desire, they are deceiving their own people.

  • Andrew Tampion 26th Dec '17 - 7:28am

    For me the most interesting part of Caron’s article is the reference to the loss of the right to travel freely within EU. As a party of Free Trade and Internationalism surely our aim should be the right to travel freely throughout the World not merely one small part of it called the EU which does not even cover the whole of Europe.
    Furthermore there is no reason why we cannot offer citizens of every other country the right to travel to our country and to live and work here subject to whatever rules we choose to put in place. If we offer the EU visa free travel and they choose not to reciprocate then it’s their choice and their loss not ours.

  • William Fowler 26th Dec '17 - 11:39am

    I would pay extra for a somewhat sturdier passport, colour change is ok as it is apparently not going to cost any more money as new contract due… BUT we are going from being Euro citizens to British SUBJECTS with all the loss of dignity and rights that entails.

  • @Martin, thank you for correcting the quote.

    But if the quote from Lord Lothian is “..very little to do with the EU”, why is it displayed in such a prominent position in the EU’s visitor centre?

    The EU does not need a flag and anthem to cooperate, and it seems to me that we are replacing UK nationalism with EU nationalism.
    Geopolitically,I am more afraid of EU nationalism and for the loss of our receding democracy, than I would be in having faith in my country and my own people.

    If we have so little faith in the UK’s own Parliament to right the wrongs of our own country, why not just close Parliament down and allow Brussels to grant us whatever rights it believes we can – or can not – have?

  • We should welcome this return to normality. Every other sovereign nation has its own passport apart from those deprived of sovereignty within the EU.

  • We have always had our own passport. They carry the words ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ above the lion and unicorn (French mottoes, but that’s our ‘we’re so not Europe’ history for you). And ‘Her Britannic Majesty’s secretary of state’ and a lot more British stuff inside.
    I’m not sure what is ‘normal’ about a country having burgundy passports for some and blue for others until 2029, when the last burgundy one expires.
    Or is the government going to waste public money replacing all the burgundy ones?

  • Surely the electronic and holpgtam stuff on the inside of the passport is what matters these days. I am surprised that the government hasn’t started offering individuals the choice of any cover design they like for a premium price.

  • I am surprised that the government hasn’t started offering individuals the choice of any cover design they like for a premium price.

    Well, they could start with offering blue passports at £721 each… 🙂

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