London: The UK government has started issuing British passports without the words “European Union” even though the UK remains a full member of the bloc.
It removed the two words from passport covers issued this week on the working assumption that Brexit day would have been 29 March.
But the move has angered those applying for new passports who were hoping to hold on to an emblem of EU membership.
Susan Hindle Barone, who was one of the first to receive the new-look passports, said: “I was shocked because we haven’t left the EU yet. I assumed we would get the same old passport. It’s not so much about that but it’s the first tangible sign of us leaving the EU.“
In response to a tweet from Barone, Catherine Sutherland said: “I don’t understand how the Home Office can do this while still in the EU though.”
The Home Office issued a statement saying the removal of the words “European Union” was part of a two-stage redesign process that will culminate in the old blue British passports being reissued from “late 2019”.
“Burgundy passports that no longer include the words ‘European Union’ on the front cover will be introduced from 30 March 2019,” it said.
“Passports that include the words ‘European Union’ will continue to be issued for a short period after this date. You will not be able to choose whether you get a passport that includes the words ‘European Union’, or a passport that does not.
“You will not be issued with a passport that includes the words ‘European Union’ after the UK has left the EU.
“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 include the words ‘European Union’. Both designs will be equally valid for travel.”
The Home Office said the inclusion of the words “European Union” was part of the policy of the EU but was not legally binding, and consumers who receive the new-look passports in the coming months have nothing to worry about. “They are perfectly legal,” it said.
The decision to revive the old blue British passport became an emblem of the government’s promise to “take back control” after the 2017 election despite the loss of Theresa May’s majority.
The then immigration minister, Brandon Lewis, said he was delighted to return to the “iconic” blue and gold design, which came into use almost 100 years ago. He said he knew many remain voters who still had an “attachment for” and spoke fondly of the blue passport.