London (AFP) – A Franco-Dutch company on Wednesday won a contract to make British passports after the country leaves in the EU, in a blow for Brexit campaigners.
“The 11.5 year contract has been awarded to Gemalto after a rigorous, fair and open competition,” Britain’s interior ministry said in a statement.
The £260 million ($370 million, 299 million euros) contract represents a significant saving compared to the £400 million 10-year deal signed with British firm De La Rue in 2009.
Gemalto, which is headquartered in Amsterdam and listed on the French and Dutch stock exchanges, will be tasked with designing and producing new blue-coloured passports.
The return of blue British passports in place of burgundy-coloured ones synonymous with the European Union was hailed as a symbolic reclamation of sovereignty for those backing Britain’s exit from the bloc.
UK passports had dark blue covers from 1921, but Britain switched to burgundy from 1988, in common with other passports of what was then the European Community.
Picking a foreign firm over a UK manufacturer provoked an outcry in Britain by some politicians and the country’s pro-Brexit newspapers.
Brexit supporters have said it would be a “national humiliation” if British passports were made in the EU.
A petition run by the Daily Mail to keep production in Britain has topped 330,000 signatures.
Britain’s interior ministry said earlier this month that it had extended the bidding process by two weeks amid the backlash and following a request from De La Rue.
But the British firm said on Wednesday it would not appeal the government’s decision to pick Gemalto and vowed to “assist with transition to the new supplier”.
De La Rue’s contract expires in July 2019 — after Britain’s departure from the EU next March — and the new passport production contract is to begin in October 2019.