Nation’s chance to achieve fresh start

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HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes

Although Britain joined the European Economic Community in 1973, it was not for another 15 years that our cherished navy-blue passports began to be phased out, to be replaced by burgundy versions with the words European Community (later European Union) emblazoned on the front.

The traditional blue British passports were introduced in 1921, though the concept of passports is centuries old – indeed, they were first issued by the Privy Council in 1540.

The post-First World War navy blue design was so distinctive that, at a League of Nations conference in 1926, the British passport was hailed as “perfection itself”.

It took European countries years of deliberations to agree on common burgundy passports; Britain, apparently, initially rejected various shades of purple, before –as with so many matters European– a messy compromise was found, which we reluctantly accepted.

Some may regard all such things as trivial, but to do so undervalues emblems and their significance.

There can be few more powerful totems of a nation’s identity than its passport, and the loss of our unique design symbolised the sacrifice of our sovereignty.

Such symbols matter because they inform our sense of place and worth by helping to define who we are through what we know and what we feel.

Those who recall with regret the end of the blue passport lament not only its lost aesthetic, but the passing of an era when Britain could choose the colour of its official documents.

The Government recently affirmed that the reconsideration of passport design will accompany our departure from the European Union.

For me, as for many others, the restoration of our navy blue passport would be a touchingly tangible confirmation of the restoration of national sovereignty.

What a powerful symbol of a new era for our nation that would be – a fresh start inspired by the best of the past.