The UK is still part of the EU. So I am wondering, what is the legal basis of the decision to remove the words 'European Union' from the cover of UK passports issued since March 29th 2019 (the original date set for the UK leaving the EU)?

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    This is an interesting question and I have edited to remove what was clearly not related to the main topic. However, I think it requires more context: when the "EU" was removed from the passport? Remember that most users here are not from UK and thus not necessarily familiar with UK politics.
    – Alexei
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 8:12
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    This seems to be a question purely about law rather than politics, and as such is off-topic here and on-topic on law.stackexchange.com. Commented May 11, 2019 at 17:12
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    @PeterTaylor I disagree. The answers show that this is entirely a political question. Commented May 12, 2019 at 21:31

2 Answers 2


Both the Burgundy color and the words 'European Union' are recommended as part of passports issued by member states, but neither are compulsory.

As such, the legal basis of the UK's decision is: there's no legal basis for this to be illegal.


In short: putting it on to begin with is optional.

Quoting a European parliament answer to a similar question (emphasis mine):

What is commonly called an ‘EU passport’ is in fact a national passport established under the national laws of the Member States and issued to their citizens. Under EC law(1) only the security features and the biometric identifiers included in the passport chip have been harmonised on a legal basis relating to the Schengen acquis on crossing the external borders.

The current format of the EU passport contains common features on which Member States have agreed in non-binding resolutions(2) such as for example paper size, the burgundy coloured cover, similar typeface for name and the use of the words ‘European Union’ in the country's official language on the cover. This can be seen as contributing to citizens' identification with the EU and raising their awareness about their common status as EU citizens.

Refs 1 and 2 are:

  1. Council Regulation (EC) No 2252/2004 of 13.12.2004 on standards for security features and biometrics in passports and travel documents issued by Member States; OJ L 385, 29.12.2004, p. 1-6 — as amended.

  2. 23.6.1981 — Resolution of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States of the European Communities, meeting within the Council of 23 June 1981, OJ C 241, 19.9.1981 p. 1-7.

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    It's also worth noting that the paper size and many of the provisions concerning the biometric chip are better described as the EU accepting the ICAO standard, as nearly every country in the world has done. That is why the UK will not change its passport size back to the old size.
    – phoog
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 20:13

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