Passport : You and yours...
...not "Global Britain."
Brexit under Boris Johnson means Global Britain. That is, Britain should be an innovator in science and technology, with a competitive labour market, efficiently administered and regulated, and ready to make partnerships around the world. The Prime Minister describes it like this:
"Having left the European Union, the UK has started a new chapter in our history. We will be open to the world, free to tread our own path, blessed with a global network of friends and partners, and with the opportunity to forge new and deeper relationships. Our Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU gives us the freedom to do things differently and better, both economically and politically. In the years ahead, agility and speed of action will enable us to deliver for our citizens, enhancing our prosperity and security." (1)
The post-EU passport is the symbol of Global Britain:
"We have reintroduced our iconic blue passports. All new British passports are now blue, a return to their original appearance, with the colour first introduced in 1921, and updated to be the most technologically-advanced and secure British passports ever, with the carbon footprint from their manufacture reduced to net zero."(2)
Home Secretary Priti Patel was keen to travel with the redesigned passport:
“Leaving the European Union gave us a unique opportunity to restore our national identity and forge a new path in the world. By returning to the iconic blue and gold design, the British passport will once again be entwined with our national identity and I cannot wait to travel on one.” (3)
The blue passport is the symbol of Global Britain. So global, in fact, that the passport is made in Poland by a French owned company. It's a pity that Her Majesty's Government couldn't produce British passports here.
There's always been a lot of affection for the old passports. Britain has had a big effect on the world: it's an illusion, but it's flattering to hold your passport and feel a bit of that history rub off. That said, "Global Britain" is not a very satisfying version of national identity. It feels like a brochure in a first-class departure lounge: Britain's global economy is the thing that matters; the international business class are the people that matter.
The passport should mean more than "Global Britain." Most people will never make it to business class; the economy is important, but there is more to life than being part of a competitive labour force. It's not as if people only voted to leave the European Union to make cheaper trade deals.
A better sign that the government had listened to what Brexit voters cared about would be to make national cover designs available on our passport. Britain is not a nation. Britain is a constitutional monarchy, and "Great Britain" and "the United Kingdom" refer to constitutional arrangements. It is the nations - Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England - to which most people feel their primary identity and loyalty. "I am Scottish" or "my family is from Wales" feel very different to "I'm British." UK people should be able to opt for a national passport design of their choice - perhaps where they were born, or where their parents were from.
Britain is not short of ancient national symbols, and there will always be plenty of demand for the Lion and the Unicorn. If people don't want to mess around with that too much, maybe national variants of it are enough.
The passport has always been a powerful symbol of identity, loyalty and belonging, and we should make the most of it.
(1) Global Britain in a Competitive Age: the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, 2021.
(2) The Benefits of Brexit - Our Achievements so far, 2022.
(3) Press Release, 22 February 2020