LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's classic blue passport, for many a key symbol of national sovereignty, will be reintroduced after the country leaves the European Union, the government said on Friday.
Bringing back the old passport, just as Britain is negotiating the terms on which it leaves the EU in March 2019, will please both those who voted to leave the bloc and many of those who voted to remain, immigration minister Brandon Lewis said.
"Even people who voted remain (...) still have this attachment to the passport of the past," Lewis told the BBC. "Leaving the EU gives us a unique opportunity to restore our national identity and forge a new path for ourselves in the world."
The dark blue and gold passport was replaced by the burgundy jacket of the European Union in 1988. The new document, which will be issued from October 2019, will also come with enhanced security features, Lewis said.
The color of the passport became another bone of contention during the EU referendum campaign, with many Brexit supporters highlighting it as a measure of Britain's lost independence, while their opponents mocked the attachment given the damage they believed leaving the bloc would do.
The change will be introduced as old passports expire and come at no extra cost to the taxpayer.
Conservative lawmaker Anna Soubry, an opponent of Brexit in Britain's ruling party, tweeted: "Stand by for street parties as blue passports return. Not sure they'll make up for broken #Leave promise of extra £350m a week for (British public health service) NHS."
She was referring to a Brexit slogan which promised more funding for Britain, such as for the health service, once Britain stopped contributing to the EU, in what became a touchstone for the debate.
Nigel Farage, a leading supporter of Brexit and former head of the United Kingdom Independence Party tweeted: "Happy Brexmas!"
"A return to British passports means we are becoming a proper country again. We are getting our individuality and national identity back," he wrote.
(Writing by Elisabeth O'Leary)