British passports are already missing 'European Union' on cover

A woman scans her passport at an automated kiosk in France.
A woman scans her passport at an automated kiosk in France.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (NYTIMES) - Some British citizens planning to travel abroad already have a tangible sign of what life will look like once the country is no longer a member of the European Union: new passports missing "European Union" on the front cover.

Last month, even as lawmakers wrestled over the principal terms of the withdrawal process known as Brexit, the Home Office said that the design of new passports would change after March 29, the initial date set for Britain's departure.

For a while, both the old and new designs will be made and both are valid for travel, the Home Office said, adding, "You will not be able to choose whether you get a passport that includes the words European Union or a passport that does not."

While Brexit itself has been delayed - the departure deadline was extended to April 12, and Prime Minister Theresa May has asked Brussels for a further postponement - the passport changes have moved forward as planned.

A Home Office spokeswoman told the BBC that "in order to use leftover stock and achieve best value to the taxpayer," British passports with "European Union" will still be issued for "a short period."

Among the chief uncertainties surrounding Brexit was how travelling to Europe would change, depending on whether Britain reached a deal with the bloc.

In posters on public transport and the Internet, the government warned people to renew their passports early if they planned to travel as the Brexit process was unfolding.


Drivers who held pink plastic permits under EU standards were told to get ready to apply for international licences in case Britain left without a deal.

But for Britons, whose passports sometimes are their only form of identification, the document has come to symbolise Brexit.

When the government announced that it would return to the old blue passports after Brexit, hailed by May (who supported remaining in the bloc) as "an expression of independence," those in favour of the withdrawal saw a strong sign of their country reclaiming control.

Their joy was soon tempered by news that the documents would most likely be manufactured in France.