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Monday 3 April 2017

The Blue Passport Mirage

If the sight of what Robin Day rightly called “here today and gone tomorrow politicians” scrabbling for the nearest microphone to issue blood-curdling threats against the dastardly Spanish over Gibraltar were not pointless, embarrassing and stupid enough, we now have the spectacle of the same opportunist fools, egged on by the Europhobic press, screaming about the colour of British passports. And no, it isn’t April 1st today.
British passports were either navy blue or black in The Good Old Days (tm). They were also larger and did not include the technology that helps guard against fraud. But in the late 1980s, passports became smaller and the colour changed to what is now described as “Burgundy”. For some Tory MPs and their press pals, this was roughly equivalent to seeing their cocks drop off. Well, it is always Male Tory MPs doing the whining.

So when someone got wind of a new contract going out to tender for the printing of passports after 2019, hacks added two and two, getting an answer which may have been four, but they didn’t bother to check. This had to mean that The Good Old Patriotic Blue British Passport was back. Let’s all stand in the fish tank and sing Jerusalem!

To no surprise at all, this made the front page of yesterday’s Express, which called Tory boneheads Andrew Rosindell and Andrew Bridgen “patriotic MPs” and quoted UKIP leader Paul Nuttall, the “Bad Bootle Meff”, approvingly.
No, it's not blue. But details, eh?

The Express, though, also upholds its mission to make as little sense as possible, telling of the allegedly hated Euro-Passport “The change led to howls of protest in Britain and cost taxpayers £1.5million”, while then approvingly claiming “BRITAIN’S iconic dark blue passports are set to make a return as part of a £500million post-Brexit redesign”.

Blowing £500 million is suddenly A Very Good Thing! It must be true (or not) because the Murdoch Sun has also run the story, eulogising “BEAUTIFUL IN BLUE Home Office readies plan to ditch burgundy passport for Brexit Blue document by 2019 … BRITAIN'S blue passport is set to return as part of a £500 million redesign following Brexit”.

But, as my friend John Band has mused, although it cannot be said with total certainty that this story is total crap, it most probably is. What has happened is that the contract to print passports runs out in 2019, and so another one is being sent out to tender.
Does this offend you? Best seek help

As we do not know what the status of the UK will be when the contract begins, it cannot be said with any certainty that the passports will be able to dispense with the words “European Union” on the front cover. Lead times and all that.

There is a precedent: although India became independent in August 1947, British coinage for 1948 retained the description “IND:IMP”, denoting that the King was Emperor of India. This did not disappear until 1949 coins were minted.

Moreover, Britain could have blue passports while an EU member state, as Croatia does right now. Yes, that means this is a totally synthetic rage. Worse, the uncertainty will probably result in the next batch of passports being the same colour and style as what is issued right now. What you will not read in the Express or Sun.


Neil said...

Don't government contracts over a certain figure have to be put out to tender across the EU? If the contract is to be placed by 2019 we'll still be in the EU. I'll look forward to the sound of veins popping in the brains of Brexiteers should it be awarded to another country, especially France or Germany.

Anonymous said...

The only reason that Croatia currently has a blue passport is that they were the last country to join the EU and were permitted to use up existing stocks. The next batch of Croatian passports will be regulation EU burgundy colour.

A.Robot (Mrs) said...

The Express had an April Fool story on Saturday about the EU demanding all car registration plates with EU flags on them having to be returned to Brussels. It was anti-EU bullshit, an intended 'joke' and led to the usual 'Brit outrage' on anti-social media.
On Monday they run an anti-EU bullshit story, just like the ones they've run every day for the last 10 years, which is an UNintended joke and, like all their other bullshit stories, will lead to the usual mix of hatred and mawkish sentimentality among the mouth-breathing readership and led to them all voting Leave.
Does anyone at Dirty Des's scurrilous little rag see any irony here?

Steve Rochford said...

Even if we have definitely left the EU when the new contract comes into force, the passport will look much as the same as today but perhaps with a blue cover and the words "European Union" removed.
How it can cost £500 million to do that, I've no idea! Is that perhaps the total manufacturing cost for (say) 10 years? If not, someone's being royally ripped off!
I've no doubt that whatever happens the Express and Mail will be unhappy; there's no way we can go back to the old style passports; http://www.icao.int/publications/Documents/9303_p3_cons_en.pdf has the details of what passports must look like (and, amusingly, refers to "Arabic numerals" which most of us will recognise as standard numbers but will no doubt upset those who assume that Islam is taking over the world!)

Simon said...

A few things here:

£500m to change the colour? Imagine if the EU had imposed such a costly change!

And I believe that the words 'national embarrassment' were thrown around in relation to the burgundy colour. More fiction of course although many of the 48% may now consider it a bit of an embarrassment but not due to the colour.

Thirdly what do they need a passport for? We live in utopia now don't we? Why would anyone need to go abroad?

SteveB said...

500million might make sense. Clearly after Brexit a UK passport with European Union on the front wouldn't be true and could be refused by any other country. So all passports would need to be changed. How many are in circulation with people who would want to continue travelling - maybe 30-40 million. How much (cost price before the Civil Service admin cost is added) for a replacement - say £15 each.

The huge looming problem is not the cost, it's the timescales. With a 10 year validity the turnover of new passports will be about 3-4 million per year. It simply won't be possible to reissue them all in the same year.

And as for the colour, perhaps it's no coincedence that blue is suggested, after all that is the US colour and these people are very keen on toadying up to the Yanks.

An interesting future argument concerns the theoretical options for Scotland going it alone. Could the existing definition of the UK (GB plus NI) still be used? If not they'd need a reissue. Obviously in that case it would be the fault of those who wanted to leave........

Andy McDonald said...

The £500 million cost is worked out as follows: £70 for an adult passport renewal, times approx. 6 million per annum. £420 million, round up.

So it's self-financing (sort of), but depends on passport ownership staying at the same rate or increasing.