UK issues passports without ‘European Union’ on cover

UK issues passports without ‘European Union’ on cover
Ahead of an EU summit on Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to ask them for another extension, until June 30, to prevent Britain departing with no deal at the end of next week. (Shutterstock)
Updated 07 April 2019

UK issues passports without ‘European Union’ on cover

UK issues passports without ‘European Union’ on cover
  • Ahead of an EU summit on Wednesday, she was forced to ask them for another extension, until June 30, to prevent Britain departing with no deal at the end of next week

LONDON: Britain has begun issuing passports with the words “European Union” removed from the front cover — despite Brexit being delayed and its political leaders deadlocked over how to extricate the country from the bloc.
The interior ministry said Saturday that a longstanding decision to start introducing passports without reference to the EU had gone ahead from March 30, the day after the original date for Brexit.
Prime Minister Theresa May has delayed leaving the bloc after 46 years of membership amid stubborn opposition in parliament to the divorce deal she finalized with European leaders in November.
MPs have comprehensively rejected the agreement three times.
Ahead of an EU summit on Wednesday, she was forced to ask them for another extension, until June 30, to prevent Britain departing with no deal at the end of next week.
But the other 27 members must give unanimous backing to any further postponement and are increasingly impatient at the paralysis in Westminster. They could offer just a shorter postponement — or a longer period of up to a year.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters at a G7 meeting in France on Saturday that it was time for the Brexit crisis to end.
“The British authorities and the British parliament need to understand that (the EU) is not going to be able to constantly exhaust itself with the ups and downs of domestic British politics,” he said.
However Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar cautioned it was “extremely unlikely” a member would veto another extension, while revealing he now favored a lengthy delay.
May is trying to break the parliamentary gridlock by striking a compromise deal with the main Labour opposition.
Senior ministers have spent several days negotiating with its leaders, but there are signs of the talks stalling after Labour complained of no “real change or compromise.”
British finance minister Philip Hammond nevertheless struck an optimistic tone at a meeting Saturday of European finance ministers in Bucharest.
There were “no red lines” in the ongoing discussions, he told reporters, adding: “I expect we will reach some form of agreement.”

Britain’s interior ministry meanwhile confirmed that some newly issued passports now omit references to the EU on the cover, while others still bear the bloc’s name.
The discrepancy was due to an attempt to save public money by using up “leftover stock,” but both designs would be “equally valid for travel,” they insisted.
“Passports that include the words ‘European Union’ will continue to be issued for a short period,” a spokeswoman said.
British passports had already become ensnared in the country’s Brexit divisions after the government announced in 2017 it would return to traditional blue passports “to restore national identity.”
The travel documents had dark blue covers from 1921, but Britain switched to burgundy from 1988, in common with other members of the-then European Community.
Last year it emerged that Franco-Dutch company Gemalto had won the contract to make the new blue passports, prompting fury from Brexit campaigners and more ridicule from Remainers that a British company was not chosen.
The new production contract is to begin in October 2019, with passports currently being issued in the burgundy color.

Whether Britain will have left the bloc by then is uncertain.
Even those of May’s Conservative colleagues who back her deal have denounced any outreach to Labour, while the most hard-line Brexiteers remain implacably opposed to her deal.
Hammond, who backed Remain in Britain’s 2016 referendum and is seen as favoring as soft a Brexit as possible, urged his divided party to show flexibility.
“We should be open to listen to suggestions that others have made and some people in the Labour Party are making other suggestions,” he said.
Labour is pushing for a much closer post-Brexit alliance with the EU, including participation in a customs union.
May has previously dismissed the idea because it bars Britain from striking its own trade deals with global giants such as China and the United States.
Labour’s home affairs spokeswoman Diane Abbott also called for compromise.
“The government perhaps has to show a little more flexibility than it seems to have done so far,” she told the BBC.


UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March
Updated 17 January 2021

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set a target of vaccinating the elderly, including care home residents, the clinically vulnerable and frontline workers

LONDON: Britain’s government hopes it can meet its target for rolling out COVID-19 vaccines and be able to consider easing lockdown restrictions by March, foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday.
The country, which has Europe’s highest COVID-19 death toll, has been under a national lockdown since Jan. 5, when schools were closed for most pupils, non-essential businesses were shut to the public, and people were ordered to work from home where possible.
“What we want to do is get out of this national lockdown as soon as possible,” Raab told Sky News television.
“By early spring, hopefully by March, we’ll be in a position to make those decisions. I think it’s right to say we won’t do it all in one big bang. As we phase out the national lockdown, I think we’ll end up phasing through a tiered approach.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set a target of vaccinating the elderly, including care home residents, the clinically vulnerable and frontline workers — or roughly more than 13 million people — by mid-February.
If all goes smoothly, he has said that England can consider easing lockdown restrictions from that time.
The Sunday Times newspaper said British ministers had reached a deal to approve a three-point plan that could lead to some lockdown restrictions being lifted as soon as early March.
Areas will have restrictions eased once their death rate has fallen, the number of hospital admissions drops and some people aged between 50 and 70 are vaccinated, the newspaper said.
The Sunday Times quoted cabinet ministers as saying they were prepared to resist pressure from health advisers to delay the changes until most people are vaccinated, a process that would take until the summer at least.
“For the first time there are no significant divisions between hawks and doves in the cabinet,” a cabinet source told the newspaper. “Everyone accepted that we need to lock down hard and everyone accepts that we need to open up before everyone is vaccinated.”
A spokesman in Johnson’s office declined to comment on the report.