Britain’s new blue passports are to be produced by a French firm after Brexit, the government announced, after the company landed the £490 million deal.
Gemalto, which is listed on the Amsterdam and Paris stock exchanges, is near to securing the contract after undercutting a British rival by around £50 million.
The chairman of the influential European Scrutiny Committee, Sir Bill Cash, told The Telegraph that the decision was “completely wrong and unnecessary”.
Under strict Civil Service and European Union (EU) competition rules, the Home Office is not allowed to “discriminate” against European firms in the British national interest.
Decision to produce passports abroad is devastating for my constituents who work at De La Rue & a massive blow to the reputation of British business. At a defining moment in our history, this sends out completely the wrong message & will reduce our standing in Europe & the world
— Liz Twist MP (@LizTwistMP) March 22, 2018
However, British firms are not allowed to compete for the contract to manufacture French passports, as the French government considers the documents a national security issue, and therefore exempt themselves from EU rules.
The restoration of blue passports is a symbolic move as the UK regains its sovereignty, and the decision to make them abroad has divided opinion among Brexiteers and pro-EU voices alike.
Some hailed the deal as a success for a new Post-Brexit, pro-free market “global Britain”, saving the taxpayer £50 million, while others claim it is a “humiliation” and will be an economic loss for the nation as hundreds of million goes towards supporting jobs abroad.
Hold on. De La Rue, the UK company outbid on blue passports, makes passports for 40 other countries. So Britain should make passports for many other countries and our own via protectionism? Good grief.
— Iain Martin (@iainmartin1) March 22, 2018
Boss of British passport manufacturing firm De La Rue Martin Sutherland told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was a “disappointing and surprising decision”.
He continued: “We’ve heard over the last few weeks and months ministers more than happy to come on [TV and radio] and talk about the blue passport and how it’s an icon of British identity but now this icon of British identity is going to be manufactured in France.”
Ha – De la Rue boss has just invited May or Rudd to go and explain to his staff in Gateshead why new British passports will be made outside the UK @BBCr4today
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) March 22, 2018
Adding: “The passports are manufactured in Gateshead, we have a very skilled and proud workforce in Gateshead.
“I’m going to have to look at them in the whites of their eyes and explain why the British Government thinks it’s a good idea to buy French passports rather than British passports.
“I would like to invite Theresa May or Amber Rudd to come to my factory and explain to my dedicated workforce why they think this is a sensible decision to manufacture offshore a British icon.”