London - The traditional blue British passport could return after Brexit, it was claimed this week.
The Home Office hinted that ministers could ditch the EU-approved burgundy document – controversially introduced in 1988 – after seizing back sovereignty from Brussels.
There have been growing calls for ministers to commit to reintroducing the old colour for all new passports when the UK finally leaves the bloc.
Immigration minister Robert Goodwill confirmed that the Home Office was “considering potential changes” – apparently a clear shift from its previous stance. He made the comments while responding to a written question from Conservative MP Julian Knight in the Commons.
Mr Goodwill said: “We are considering potential changes to the UK passport after the UK has left the European Union.” But he added: “At this early stage we have not undertaken a detailed cost-benefit analysis or made any decisions about what a future UK passport might look like.”
There were also signs of fresh confusion within the government when Brexit Secretary David Davis later slapped down demands to reintroduce blue passports, insisting he was “not in the business of symbolism”.
However Mr Knight, who campaigned to remain in the EU, said: “The blue passport is a symbol of our independence as a strong, proud nation. I think this is a clear shift in position. I am very pleased to see that my calls and those of other MPs seem to be having an effect and that officials are now looking at the prospect of reintroducing this great symbol of our independence and our nation.
“There are many people who missed the original blue passport – they like the feel, the look of it – and now we have voted to leave the European Union it seems to be a good time to review when we should introduce our own passport.
“I don’t see any additional problems or extra cost from changing the colour of the passport?... I just think it would be a symbol of our independence as a country and accepting a new era.”
Blue British passports were introduced in 1921. But in 1981, Brussels demanded all member states should have a European passport. Britain resisted strongly until 1988, when it was the last nation to switch to burgundy. The change cost UK taxpayers £1.5-million as a new printing line had to be built.
In 2000 the UK fought off a plan to remove the Queen’s crest from the passport and possibly introduce the 12-star EU logo on its cover. And in 2007, Brussels tried to remove the phrase “Her Britannic Majesty” from the documents.
Around five million UK passports are issued each year, made by private security firm De La Rue. Under the terms of a £400-million deal signed in 2010, De La Rue is set to make major design changes to combat ID fraud. This suggests altering the passport’s colour would be a relatively simple process.