The Prime Minister hailed the move to bring back blue travel documents after Brexit as an expression of the UK’s “sovereignty and independence”.
Leave voters celebrated the change, which will see the EU-style burgundy cover that has been a feature since the 1980s finally replaced.
But Mr Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit coordinator, tweeted today that the UK could have chosen the colour change while remaining an EU member.
He wrote: “There is no EU legislation dictating passport colour. The UK could have had any passport colour it wanted and stay in the EU.”
In a later barb, he tweeted a photo of the Passport to the European Union booklet, with a blue EU flag on the cover.
He wrote: “If we had known in advance that blue was so important to the UK, we could simply have replaced our passports by this one.”
It is true there is no Brussels regulation which states that EU countries’ passports have to be a certain colour, simply a non-binding European Council resolution from 1981 which recommends burgundy red.
But angry Leave voters blasted Mr Verhofstadt for missing the point.
UKIP’s Peter Whittle tweeted: “You don’t get it do you? First words will now be United Kingdom, not EU.
“The EU tried to get crest taken off years ago, then ‘Her Britannic Majesty.’
“It’s not just about the colour.”
Brexiteer John Smith wrote: “The sad thing about people like Guy Verhofstadt is they don’t understand the importance of national symbols to millions of people.
“They think they can wipe out flags, anthems and passports on a whim and replace them with EU alternatives and no-one will mind.”
And Jeff Evans tweeted: “Having those awful two words ‘European Union’ removed from any official UK document is a fantastic positive step forward in securing our freedom from this unelected dictatorship.”
Remainers have been incensed by the decision to return to the blue passport, but their claim it will cost £500million has been shot down in flames.
The redesign, which routinely happens every five years, will come as part of a £490million contract which also includes printing and assembling passports and runs for 11-and-a-half years.
The Prime Minister’s director of communications Robbie Gibb said the £500million figure was “fake news” that “harms our democracy”.
He said: “Those who would deliberately misrepresent public policy for political gain – be it passports or animal sentience – should be called out.”
The new design will be phased in after the UK leaves the EU on March 29 2019.
Burgundy passports will continue to be issued, although without the EU markings, until the current supplier’s contract expires in October 2019.
Blue was first used for the cover of the British passport in 1921, but the design changed in 1988 after the UK joined the European Economic Community and burgundy was chosen as the common colour.
Among the new design features will be a new picture page made of a “super-strength plastic polycarbonate material that will be more difficult to alter”, the Home Office said.
The Government is facing demands from arch-Brexiteer Tory MPs Jacob Rees Mogg and Andrew Bridgen to ensure the new passports are manufactured in Britain.