A Home Office minister appeared to agree with a suggestion for her department to produce peel-off ‘European Union’ stickers for those who still want it on their passport.
The mocking suggestion was sugegested by a Brexiteer in the House of Lords as ministers were challenged over the issuing of the travel documents without the words on the front cover despite the Brexit delay.
The new burgundy passports were introduced from March 30, the day after Britain was expected to leave the EU.
Some documents including the words European Union will continue to be issued while the remaining stock is used up.
Dark blue passports are scheduled to be issued from the end of this year.
Raising the issue at Westminster, Liberal Democrat peer and former MEP Baroness Ludford pointed out the UK remained a member of the bloc with ‘all the rights and obligations of EU membership’.
She asked: ‘Why is the government refusing to pass on those rights to its citizens who want European Union on their passports?’
But Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said: ‘This is everything to do with the British people voting to leave the European Union – the Home Office preparing in changing the passports. I really think it’s not a very good point.’
Striking a sarcastic tone, Tory Brexiteer and former cabinet minister Lord Forsyth of Drumlean said Lady Ludford ‘obviously thinks this is an urgent and important matter for us to discuss today’.
He added: ‘Could the minister consider getting the Home Office to produce disposable peel-off stickers for those people who feel concerned about this with the words ‘European Union’?’
Lady Williams said: ‘He makes a very practical point.
‘In fact, one can purchase passport covers and they can be in any colour, they can say anything that anybody wants.
‘She is quite at liberty to do that.’
She added: ‘I think it is absolutely right that the Home Office prepares for the situation of the UK leaving the European Union.’
Proposing an alternative solution, Lord Blunkett joked: ‘Given the limbo that the country finds itself, wouldn’t it be sensible to put a question mark after European Union?’
Lady Williams told peers: ‘We intend to continue on and have the blue passports available from later this year and (I) look forward to ordering mine.’
Brexiteer Labour peer and Lord Grocott said: ‘Does the minister share my guess that if a British citizen was in difficulties abroad in any country they would be more likely to go to the British embassy for assistance than they would to the European External Action Service, which has grown at great expense and very rapidly over the last few years.
‘Won’t it be a nice day as and when we no longer have to make financial contributions to this service that that money could be transferred to strengthen further the British embassies and consulates throughout the world?’
Lady Williams said she ‘totally’ agreed.