The first tangible travel consequence of Brexit has been revealed: how passports will change after leaving the European Union.
New British passports issued after the exit date of 29 March 2019 will initially continue to have “EU burgundy” covers.
The embossed words “European Union” at the top of the front cover will be removed, along with the same words (and translations into Welsh and Gaelic) on the first proper page.
Based on the number of passports issued between April and September 2016, The Independent estimates that four million new passports will take this temporary form.
By October 2019, as predicted by The Independent, new British passports will revert to dark blue covers with gold lettering – like those first used in 1921.
The immigration minister, Brandon Lewis, said: “Leaving the EU gives us a unique opportunity to restore our national identity and forge a new path for ourselves in the world.
“That is why I am delighted to announce that the British passport will be returning to the iconic blue and gold design after we have left the European Union in 2019.”
The old “hard-cover” British passport started to be replaced in 1988, and by 2003 they had all expired.
Brexiteers who were hoping for a return to the traditional document will be disappointed. Apart from the colour, the new documents will be very similar in look and feel to current EU passports.
The dimensions and other features are prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation: a UN body based in Montreal, rather than Brussels.
Brexit could be delayed in ‘exceptional circumstances’, Theresa May admits
Mr Lewis promised the new document would have “a raft of new security measures to protect against fraud and forgery”.
The crucial page containing the holder’s photograph and personal details will be replaced with a new “super-strength plastic polycarbonate material that will be more difficult to alter”, according to the Government.
Until 29 March 2019, every passport issued by the UK will continue to be valid as a European Union travel document. From the date of leaving, all current British passports will lose this status.
But there will be no need to change them: as with driving licences bearing the EU symbol, passports will continue to be valid for UK and international use until the expiry date.
Travellers are still waiting for clarity about what additional bureaucracy will be required from British citizens.
At present all UK passport holders are entitled to travel anywhere in the EU, without informing the authorities about their travel plans. Border guards are permitted only to check that the travel document is valid. But after Brexit, British citizens will become “third country nationals” with no automatic right of admission.
While negotiations continue on Brexit, a European initiative is being developed to strengthen the EU’s external borders: the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).
The plan is that citizens of non-EU countries who do not currently need visas will need to register their details and their intentions online.
There is expected to be a surge of applications from ardent Remainers for renewals in March 2019, in order to keep a connection with the European Union for as long as possible.
The last British “EU” passport will run out by the end of 2029.