The Home Office is “taking seriously” an incident at Gatwick Airport on Monday when a male passenger was put in a holding area because he was wearing a badge reading “Bollocks to Brexit”.
Eddie Brinsmead-Stockham, a businessman from Surrey, flew on easyJet from Faro in Portugal to Gatwick.
He was wearing the anti-Brexit badge as he approached passport control.
“I smiled at the officer,” Mr Brinsmead-Stockham told The Independent. “But he said ‘Take that badge off’.”
“I said, ‘I beg you pardon’, and he said, ‘It’s offensive. Take that badge off’.”
When Mr Brinsmead-Stockham refused, the officer took his passport, led him to a glass-enclosed holding area and told him to wait.
“I asked for his name and number, but he refused to tell me,” said Mr Brinsmead-Stockham.
“To be perfectly honest I was a bit worried. I travel a lot for business but I have never been treated like that.
“After five or 10 minutes a different officer came in and handed me my passport, and said, ‘OK, you can go’.
“He also said, ‘If I was you I’d remove that badge in case you get physically assaulted at the airport’.”
Mr Brinsmead-Stockham then left the airport, but says he felt “shaken” by the experience.
“What he did is not right. I don’t intimidate easily, but someone older than me or less confident could be very upset.”
He has reported the incident to the UK Border Force.
The “Bollocks to Brexit” slogan is widely used by people who want Britain to remain in the European Union. Charlie Mullins, the founder of Pimlico Plumbers, has placed a large banner with the message on the top of his premises, which faces out to passengers on trains to the UK’s busiest station, London Waterloo.
He has also paid for a London taxi to carry the message.
The word was the subject of a court case in 1977 after the Sex Pistols released their debut album, Never Mind The Bollocks.
After the manager of Virgin Records in Nottingham refused to remove the cover from the shop window, he was prosecuted under the 19th-century Indecent Advertisements Act.
This law made it a crime to “exhibit to public view in the window of any house or shop, any picture or printed or written matter which is of an indecent or obscene nature”.
After an expert witness, the head of English at Nottingham University, testified that the word was used in early versions of the Bible to mean “testicles”, the manager was found not guilty.
When Mr Brinsmead-Stockham’s wife, Adriana, revealed the Gatwick incident on Twitter, other travellers came forward to say they had similar problems.
Angelika tweeted: “I can believe that, I was put in a holding area and given the third degree last October at Eurotunnel Calais. I had a #BollockstoBrexit sticker on my passport.”
Jaycee Aitchbee wrote: “Same happened to me at Heathrow, they asked me to throw them away for their ‘offensive’ nature. I took them off and put them in my shoe.
“They didn’t take my passport away but I can totally believe that they would. Very aggressive.”
“I have seen hen and stag parties wearing hugely offensive T-shirts with no hassle,” wrote Pilar Gomez. “This is shocking.”
A Home Office spokesperson told The Independent: “We are aware of claims made by a member of the public regarding an incident at Gatwick Airport.
“We are taking this matter seriously and are investigating.”