I just don’t understand the whole blue passport thing. And I am not talking about the fact that it seems to be black rather than blue, or that we could have had blue (or is it black?) passports when we were still inside the EU, like Croatia has (as this Irish factcheck explains, burgundy was only ever a recommendation – and who cares anyway?).
I am instead talking about why it is seen as such a ‘win’ by those who champion Brexit. Because there is no win here. There is no upside.
A UK passport has been a permission slip to move permanently to pretty much anywhere in continental Europe. Want to retire to Italy? Study in Sweden? Set up a business in Germany? You’re already approved for all those things and more, simply because you hold a UK passport. Do you just want to go on holiday to an EU country without any bureaucratic fuss or without having to join the lengthy and slow-moving ‘all passports’ queue? If you had a UK passport then you were fine.
In the years ahead however a UK passport will be a downgraded document that merely enables you to seek permission to visit continental Europe, and to do so purely as a tourist. No right to move there. No right to work there. No right to start a business. No right to retire. Nothing except the right to ask permission to visit as a tourist for a strictly time-limited period.
There are not any new rights created to counterbalance what we’re losing. We don’t suddenly become able instead to move to Canada or South Africa or Singapore. We lose something and we gain nothing. And yet the blue / black passport has somehow come to represent why we have left and what we have supposedly gained.
I wonder if it is a sign of just how masterful those behind Brexit are that they can convince large numbers of people to celebrate something that symbolises the emptiness at the heart of Brexit. Or is it that our politics is now so polarised and so poisoned that logic simply does not matter – that symbols (like Trump’s Wall) are more important than anything else, even if they don’t make any sense?
It is a serious question, and I don’t know the answer. But we need to work it out if we are ever to get back in.