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Analysis

Mail and Patel can’t think straight about blue passports

by Luke Lythgoe | 23.03.2018

The same Brexiters who extol the virtues of the free market are now outraged that our new blue passports should be made by a cheaper Franco-Dutch firm – thereby saving the taxpayer £120 million.

It’s indicative of the struggle inside the Brexit camp between swashbuckling “Global Britain” types versus Little England protectionists keen to pull up the drawbridge. But more than that, the passport furore has shown that individual Brexiters are themselves torn by conflicting passions.

Take Priti Patel. She called the decision in principle to award the passport contract to a foreign firm a “disgraceful decision” and “national humiliation”. Is this the same Patel who, before the referendum, called for the UK to be “creative, fair, and open to everything the world has to offer”? Or the same Patel who stood side by side with Boris Johnson during the launch of the Institute for Free Trade, when the foreign secretary argued the UK must be “the world’s leading proselytiser and agitator for free trade”.

Equally confused is the Daily Mail. Its front page today read: “Today the Mail has a question for Britain’s ruling class: Why DO you hate our country, its history, culture and the people’s sense of identity?” followed by a demand to “Stand up for Britain for once!”

Surely this can’t be the same Daily Mail that hailed Theresa May’s vision of a “truly global Britain” back in January 2017 as a “bold, positive stance” for a UK that is “freer, more outward-looking, more prosperous and stronger than ever before”. The paper added we would “remain the best of neighbours” with the EU.

Another irony is that the British firm which is set to lose the passport contract, De La Rue, actually benefits from global trade. It bills itself as “the world’s largest manufacturer of passports” – not Britain’s. It produces documents for several other countries including the Bahamas, Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Malta – which, in case Brexiters have forgotten, is part of the EU – presumably because it’s cheaper and more efficient for those states to get passports made over here.

The silliness goes deeper. The EU never stopped us having blue passports anyway. Croatia chose to keep its dark-blue passports when it joined the EU in 2013. The UK voluntarily adopted the burgundy passport in line with an EU resolution from 1981 which is not legally binding. That means we could cancel Brexit and still have blue passports if that’s what the people want.

The blue passport debate is a microcosm of Brexit’s flaws: an argument built on a false premise, with no clear idea of where we should end up.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

2 Responses to “Mail and Patel can’t think straight about blue passports”

  • This is where Brexit should have jumped the shark. Peak Brexit if you will. Sadly, we know there will be yet more Brexit hysteria from its most ardent supporters round the corner.

    The very same ardent Brexiters such as the Mail shed not one tear at the reduction and in many cases demise of manufacturing and engineering in Northern England, The Midlands, Central Scotland and South Wales. And yet, they are crying crocodile tears over blue passports printed in another EU country.

    P.S. Rather amusing to see Brexiters getting angry over the colour of a passport and demanding they return to a colour they never actually were.

  • Imagine. All those blue passports stuck on a lorry at Dover trying to get into the country. You couldn’t make it up.