Passports (crosspost from Crooked Timber)

I was looking over this post from 2016, on the consequences of a relatively successful Brexit

I’m finding it hard to see that anything will happen to justify the massive effort involved. The Poles and other EU citizens whose presence was the biggest single justification for Brexit won’t go away. On the contrary, it seems pretty clear that all EU citizens will get permanent residence, even those who arrived after the Brexit vote. Even with a hard Brexit, the benefits of consistency with EU regulations will be overwhelming. The terms of any trade deal with non-EU countries won’t be any better than the existing EU deals and probably worse. Even symbolically, what’s going to happen? Typically, national independence is marked by a ceremony where the flag of the imperial power is lowered, and the new national flag is raised. But, from what I can tell, the EU flag is hardly ever flown in the UK as it is. The same for national currency, passport, official languages and all the other symbolic representations of nationhood. So, after a successful Brexit, Britain will be a little poorer and more isolated than before, but otherwise largely unchanged. Will that count as success in the eyes of those who voted to Leave. I don’t know.

Most of that still looks about right. But as commenters at the time pointed out, I was wrong about passports. One of the big things Leavers disliked about the EU was the replacement of the blue British passport with EU burgundy. It turns out that the colour change wasn’t compulsory, and the reintroduced blue passports will be printed in France, but at least that is a symbolic win for the Brexiteers.

On the other hand, how does this fit with the oft-repeated claim that Leave voters were “left behind” “stayers”? To be nostalgic for blue passports, you would presumably need to have undertaken a fair bit of international travel before 1988, when they were replaced. That experience, combined with the assumption that Britain is far superior to the EU, sounds like the profile of a stereotypical well-off, middle-aged or older, Tory voter. And, as far as I can tell, it was this category that provided the core support for Leave. That’s consistent with Trumpist voting most places in the English speaking world.

9 thoughts on “Passports (crosspost from Crooked Timber)

  1. It was in 1984 that Jim Hacker’s Eurosausage triumph over the EU vaulted him into the prime ministership. It’s disconcerting to realize the same kinds of arguments are still driving British politics 35 years later.

    “They’ve turned our pints into litres and our yards into metres, we gave up the tanner and the threepenny bit, the two bob and the half-crown. But they cannot and will not destroy the British sausage! Not while I’m here.

    In the words of Martin Luther: Here I stand, I can do no other.”

  2. Perhaps globalisation was too fast, at least for those identifying as British.

    One of the more dismal aspects of the Brexit shemozzle was that for the referendum ⅓ said yes, ⅓ said no, and ⅓ just didn’t show up.

    In other words, the majority was either “nuh” or “f*ck off”.

  3. I renewed my Brtish passport in April, after the initially planned Brexit date. It’s still burgundy and says “European Union” on the cover.

  4. Rog, there’s a lot of evidence that the relevant identification was “English”

    James, apparently that’s old stock. The passports being issued now are still burgundy but without the EU. Blue ones coming soon, with or without Brexit, AFAICT.

  5. Rog, there’s a lot of evidence that the relevant identification was “English”

    Is it your view that Leo Docherty, Iain Duncan Smith, and Craig Mackinlay are No True Scotsmen?

  6. rog – “Perhaps globalisation was too fast, at least for those identifying as British.”

    Like a rapid sunset for an empire on which the sun never set.

    Gin and tridents in that still twilight.

  7. J-D: I assume you’re going to run through the names of rest of the millions of no-English leave voters too?
    Statistically it seems that Brexit is much more popular in England than other parts of the UK. There are fun arguments to be had about whether the Scots would prefer to leave the UK rather than Europe. What the Northern Irish want to do is frankly a scary question, because Brexit plus the various Conservative MPs making stupid remarks about the Irish make a tricky situation simply horrid.
    There does seem to be a lot of “I voted leave and I’m not listening to anyone until I get it” stubbornness going on, or perhaps the ERG are right and a goodly chunk of the UK want to cut their legs off to spite the EU. I could even be convinced that a number of them actively want to screw over Scotland and Ireland and see Brexit as a way of doing that (the various responses to IndyRef suggest that, as well as telling Conservative politicians that there are no penalties for even the most transparent of lies).

  8. “There are fun arguments to be had about whether the Scots would prefer to leave the UK rather than Europe.”

    Surveys say that Tory voters would rather break up the UK than not leave Europe. It’s become a totemic issue, devoid of reason.

  9. J-D: I assume you’re going to run through the names of rest of the millions of no-English leave voters too?

    The three names I picked were of people who are (a) unambiguously Scottish and (b) not merely Leave voters, but diehards: specifically, signatories of the letter the European Research Group sent to PM Theresa May in February 2018.

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