Britain’s post-Brexit passport, fabriqué en France?

The burgundy passport will be replaced by the "original" blue one post-Brexit. [EPA/ANDY RAIN]

A French company might win the British government’s call for bids to print blue post-Brexit British passports, a decision that sparked controversy in the UK. EURACTIV’s partner Ouest-France reports.

The new post-Brexit passport could be made by a French company, as reported by the British press on 22 March, a decision seen as “a national humiliation” by pro-Brexiters.

According to the British daily The Telegraph, French digital security specialist Gemalto is about to win the tender ahead of British company De La Rue, which has produced the burgundy passports up until this point.

A British icon

“It is a disappointing and surprising decision,” said Martin Sutherland the head of De La Rue to the BBC. “Over the last few months we have heard ministers happy to come on the media and talk about the new blue passport and the fact that it is an icon of British identity,” referring to the fact that the new passports would abandon the European burgundy to return to the “iconic”  and original blue of the pre-1988 passport.

“But now this icon of British identity is going to be manufactured in France,” he added, urging Theresa May to “come to [his] factory and explain to our dedicated workforce why this is a sensible decision to offshore the manufacture of a British icon”.

EU, UK make major breakthrough in Brexit talks

The European Union and the United Kingdom have agreed a “large part” of what will make up the Brexit agreement, including the transition period, taking a major step towards ensuring the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the bloc next year, the two sides’ negotiators said on Monday (19 March).

A fair competition

Asked by AFP about the call for tenders, the French Interior Ministry, did not confirm Gemalto’s offer. A spokesperson for Downing Street later indicated that decision would be made in the following weeks.

This is a “fair” competition between several companies and “we do not require passports to be made in the UK”, said the British Interior Ministry, stressing that some British passports were already made abroad.

Gemalto told AFP in an email that it would not comment “at this stage”, “ the procedure is still ongoing and the terms of contract are confidential”.

One often-repeated misconception in the Brexit debate is that EU member states must adopt a uniform burgundy passport. This is actually not the case and the standard colour is only a recommendation.

Croatia, the EU’s newest member, retains a black passport, as the red colour was deemed to be too stark a reminder of the red documents issued when it was a part of Yugoslavia.

››Read more on Ouest-France

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