The new British passport is actually only kind of British—but very blue

Back to blue.
Back to blue.
Image: AP Photo/David Vincent
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In a moment of great post-Brexit pride, the UK government has unveiled the country’s new, non-EU passport. It will be dark blue, as it was before 1988, when it was changed to burgundy to align with the rest of the (then) European Economic Community (now European Union) design.

The document, said home secretary Priti Patel, is “once again be entwined with our national identity.” Going back to blue, the UK joins a majority of countries (81) with a blue passport.

The design unveiled yesterday recalls the one the British empire introduced in 1921: It reads “British Passport” on the top, has the country’s coat of arms at the center, and underneath spells “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”

At the time of the Empire, a similar passport noted “British Passport” above the coat of arms, then listed the territory the passport was issued in: for instance India, Kenya, or indeed the UK.

A 1924 British passport.
A 1924 British passport.

A more recent version of the passport, the one in use until 1988, which was darker, was designed to read “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” above the coat of arms, and “passport” below.

As a notable wink to the nationalistic movement that led to Brexit, the new passport repeats the nationality twice—not only does it list the country it belongs to, but it highlights that it is a “British passport” (although the label is somewhat incorrect, as it is also a Northern Irish passport). No other passport does the same, and only Switzerland uses its nationality as an adjective on the passport, although without repeating Switzerland.

But the British charm of the passport might not extend past its old-school, colonial reference.

The new passport, as was quickly noted by opponents to Brexit, was designed by the Franco/Dutch company Gemalto and made in Poland. The UK competitor for the production of the passport, De La Rue, lost the bid to make it last year, which led to a reported loss of up to 170 jobs in the UK. Gemalto will continue to hold a contract to make UK passports for 10 years.

The passport will be the first passport to be certifiably carbon neutral.

According to Passport Index, the UK’s burgundy, EU passport is below 21 countries when it comes to power ranking—and shares its power level with eight other nations. Experts don’t currently see drastic changes in the ranking post-EU, assuming then that travel agreements that will be negotiated individually by the UK with other countries will be modeled after the current ones.