Sunday, April 02, 2017

About passports

A few months ago, I unearthed my first passport. It was the long-defunct British Visitors version, acquired at the age of 13 to enable me to go on a school trip to France, during which I would have my first snog, but that’s another tale for another day, or maybe never. A BVP was only valid for a year and allowed entry to a strictly limited array of countries, most of them in Western Europe; you could go to West Berlin, but only by air. Any other mode of transport would involve setting foot on Communist soil.

Which inevitably got me thinking about how much Europe, and travel, and life have changed in the years since; and how much some people apparently wish they hadn’t. Apparently we’re all going to get dark blue passports again, something apparently greatly to be desired by many Brexit voters, along with smoking in pubs, incandescent lightbulbs, pre-decimal currency and the death penalty (we are not informed whether this will be carried out in public). It all rather supports my gut feeling that Brexit is less about leaving the EU, more about going back to an imagined yesterday of Morris Minors and outside toilets, where everything is grey or beige, except the people, who are exclusively white.

But back to the passports. It’s well documented that there were some clear correlations between voting in the referendum with regard to age (older people voted to leave, younger to stay) and educational background (the higher up the learning ladder you went, the more likely you were to be a remainer). But another interesting statistic shows areas that voted heavily for Brexit also had the lowest levels of passport ownership. Which suggests that for many people, the desire for a blue passport is yet another abstract yearning for something that doesn’t really exist.

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