The boss of a British passport manufacturer has said he is surprised the UK Government has decided the new post-Brexit blue document will be made in France.
Martin Sutherland, chief executive of De La Rue – which makes the current passport – told BBC Radio 4’s Today: ‘I find that a disappointing and surprising decision.
‘I think we have heard over the last few weeks and months ministers more than happy to come on the media and talk about the blue passports and the fact that the blue passport is an icon of British identity.
‘Now this icon of British identity is going to be manufactured in France.’
His criticism came as critics slammed the move, describing it as a ‘national humiliation’.
Remainers, meanwhile, have described the news as ‘unreal irony’, while the Home Office has said no final decision had been made.
The document, which many Brexiteers see as an iconic symbol of the UK’s regained independence, is close to being awarded to Gemalto – a Franco-Dutch firm.
The firm undercut rival bids by around £50 million, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Tory MP Sir Bill Cash, chairman of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, branded the move ‘completely wrong and unnecessary’, while backbencher Priti Patel branded the move ‘astonishing’.
Sir Bill told the Telegraph: It is completely unnecessary and it is symbolically completely wrong.
‘Whatever the conditions which led to the decision in terms of pricing, the fact is that this is a symbolic event.’
Former cabinet minister Patel added: ‘To be putting the job in the hands of the French is simply astonishing. It is a national humiliation.
‘I would urge Amber Rudd and the Government to look again at the powers they have to see what they can do.’
Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable, however, hit out at the pair’s comments, calling them ‘absurd’, arguing that Tories were meant to be in favour of free trade.
Absurd comments by Priti Patel and Bill Cash over blue passports being manufactured in mainland Europe. Thought the Tories were in favour of free trade?
— Vince Cable (@vincecable) March 22, 2018
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) March 21, 2018
The manufacture of the passport went out to tender, according to EU procurement rules – something some Brexiteers are unhappy about.
However, such public procurement laws also fall under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, meaning that, even after Brexit, Britain would still have had to follow the same process.
David Allen Green, a former central government public procurement lawyer, explained that procurement for the new passport design would have been done on a ‘most economically advantageous tender’.
But pro-Brexit MP Michael Fabricant tweeted, ‘why not?’:
I would prefer it were a British company like De la Rue, but hey – if this saves money for the British taxpayer, why not?
(And Dutch Radio, the NOS, were great clients of mine before I became an MP!) https://t.co/5NM3y9hp7v
— Michael Fabricant (@Mike_Fabricant) March 21, 2018
Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake added: ‘The blue passport saga is turning into a farce.
‘First it was established that we did not have to leave the EU to have blue passports.
‘Now we learn that the passports will be printed by a foreign company. And to add insult to injury, we will pay over the odds for them because the value of the pound has fallen since Brexit and they will have to be imported.
‘Brexit is far too high a price to pay for a blue passport.’
The boss of a British passport manufacturer said he was disappointed the UK Government had decided the new post-Brexit blue document will be made in France.
The head of pro-Europe campaign group Best For Britain, Eloise Todd, said: ‘The new the pro-Brexit blue passports were supposed to be a statement of intent and now we find out they are to be made by the French or the Dutch. The irony is unreal.
‘I guess the Brexit Blue is now classed as French Navy.’
Taking back control, erm, I mean, reprendre le contrôle. https://t.co/mrY3XC7iJK
— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) March 21, 2018
A Number 10 spokesman said: ‘We are still in the process of running a fair and open competition to ensure that the new contract delivers a high-quality product which offers the best value for money for the taxpayer.
‘Our passports are routinely redesigned every five years and the terms of that have been transparent.’
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We are running a fair and open competition to ensure that the new contract delivers a high quality and secure product and offers the best value for money for customers.
“All passports will continue to be personalised with the holder’s details in the United Kingdom, meaning that no personal data will leave the UK.
“We do not require passports to be manufactured in the UK. A proportion of blank passport books are currently manufactured overseas, and there are no security or operational reasons why this would not continue.”