Sign of the Times ?

This was the sight that greeted me a couple of weeks back at Manchester airport after returning from a week in Rome spent with my italian partner, which prompted me to take a snap, given the implication and the imminent prospect of being surrounded by brexit-argument again after a welcome break on ‘the continent’  –  where it’s most definitely NOT the no.1 topic of after-dinner conversation.

Now what the hell is THAT !

Apparently a major UK airport, that is to say an organisation that should know BETTER than the general mass of the British public what the international legalities are, thinks it is OK and logical to have a large sign making out that UK passport holders are NOT by definition the same as EU passport holders.

Even though they are.

One is a sub-set of the other, but in that case why not also add  ‘& Eire’ to the text above. It would make as much sense and serve as much ( superfluous ) purpose. But of course they don’t put that as well because it WOULD defeat the real purpose of this over-lettering….

Now i could suggest the ‘charitable’ interpretation of this, which is that the powers-that-be at the airport in question* have helpfully provided a sign written in this manner so as not to confuse all those returning Brits who might have no idea they are holding an EU passport…..

The problem with that theory is that it clashes with one of the popular ‘themes’ associated with Brexit; the one to ‘get our Blue passports back’…

…. which would suggest that the very people you’d think wouldn’t have a clue about the rules of paperwork at borders when returning to the UK at passport-control, are only too aware that they are holding the despised little red ‘European’ passports.

So this notice can’t be for THEIR benefit, can it ?

And it can’t be for the ‘remainers’ coming back from hols or business trips or euro-family visits, because they are surely, by definition, well aware that they are ‘EU passport holders’ and indeed probably also proud of that fact.

So for whose benefit is this specific wording there for ?


1)   to passive-aggressively declare to citizens with passports issued in the other 27 countries of the EU that UK passports are still ‘better’, even though they are the same size, shape, colour and internal layout

2)   to make returning Brits feel ‘better’ about the fact they’re returning to the land of rainy sundays, chips with everything, binge-drinking on high streets, total idiots as cabinet ministers, etc.,

Ah, but the UK isn’t in Schengen you’re thinking.

Yes, but since that means everyone with an EU passport has to present it ( and not just an ID card ) at a UK border anyway, UK passport holders don’t have a different type of check, so that doesn’t explain or justify the wording at all.

A UK passport isn’t a whole a different category of passport to any other EU one, for the purposes of passport control.

I mean if it was, or they wanted to properly make it seem as if it was, why not create a seperate line for UK passports only ?

Answer, because that would be more expensive in equipment and require more staff…..

And we couldn’t have our crap-patriotic little fetishes actually cost us more money could we ? – a theme running right through brexit and the causes of brexit.

Supposed proud nationalists, who nonetheless baulk at any commitment to spend money on more ‘effectively’  waving their metaphorical flag to the captive audience at an airport, and patronising Johnny foreigner.the moment he arrives…

The thing is there’s no private-sector ‘business case’ for ‘official jingoism’, but as you see from the picture there’s just a little state money available for half-hearted symbolic gestures, in the form of ‘official’ notices making a visual point that not only doesn’t need to be made but is factually ignorant.

And in case you think i’m ranting about something unimportant and insignificant here, the next time you’re travelling TO any of the rest of the EU, note what the signs say at their incoming passport control gates….


Is it a glaring example of euro-ignorance ?

Whether on the part of the sign-making team or the UK border authority, or just of each airports technical management individually doesn’t matter, it’s still indicating either direct ignorance of the actual borders and passport control system currently in effect, or, by willfully injecting a nationalist angle, is demonstrating both ignorance of the wider context, and no concern for how this place is perceived.

Or maybe the point is they don’t care, they WANT to appear boorish and divisive. Which would hardly be a surprise nowadays.

It’s too easy right now to accuse the ‘hate comics’ that purport to be a large proportion of ‘the press’ in the UK of having peddled this kiind of wilful ignorance about ‘Europe’ to British readers for decades now.

But i’ve never read any of them, and yet i’m only too aware of the ‘misconceptions’ that do the rounds.

I think it only needed to be encouraged by the likes of the Mail over the last 30 years, because the pride in ignorance of foreign things was always already there when i was a lad.

Of course for me, the ‘swot’ , the kid who was constantly accused of ‘talking posh’ at school, this is all depressingly familiar territory, leavened only by the temptation i now have to be smug in assuming that the people voting themselves into chaos are almnost certainly the same people who thought knowing things was uncool at school….

After all, it seems unlikely that the ‘clever’ kids have become the dim adults and vice versa in the past few decades, doesn’t it ?

*  i have a clear recollection of the same wording at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick, for starters