Brits are up in arms after the current manufacturer of United Kingdom passports claimed that the country’s post-Brexit travel documents will be made “in France.”
After Britains historic split with the European Union that is expected in 2019, the passports are due to revert to the traditional blue-and-gold design from the burgundy hue adopted during the U.K.’s membership in the 28-nation bloc.
Martin Sutherland, CEO of De La Rue, the England-based maker of the current passports, said, after a bidding process, the contract will be taken away from his company and handed to Gemalto, a Franco-Dutch firm. (Despite its French-sounding name, De La Rue is a long-established British company that also makes the nations banknotes.)
"I think we have heard over the last few weeks and months that ministers are more than happy to talk about the fact that the blue passport is an icon of British identity,” he told a BBC radio show. "Now this icon of British identity is going to be manufactured in France."
Prime Minister Theresa May’s announced last month that “from autumn 2019 we will issue new blue-and-gold passports, which have always been the U.K.’s colors of choice for our passports."
May told the House of Commons, “It is absolutely right that after we leave the European Union we return to deciding the color of passports that we want, not that the EU wants."
Sutherland said his company had been undercut in price after bids were invited for the new contract, a process that is mandatory under EU rules. On the BBC program, he challenged May to “come to my factory and explain to my dedicated workforce why they think this is a sensible decision to offshore the manufacture of a British icon.”
Conservative Member of Parliament Sir Bill Cash, chairman of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, told Britain’s Sun newspaper the decision was "completely wrong and unnecessary."
Another Conservative, former cabinet minister Priti Patel, told the paper the move had astounded her. "This should be a moment that we should be celebrating. The return of our iconic blue passport will re-establish the British identity. But to be putting the job in the hands of the French is simply astonishing. It is a national humiliation.”
The Home Office, the agency which issues passports, said in a statement that no final decision had been made on where the new documents would be printed. “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,” it said.
Gemalto, which is headquartered in Paris and has two factories in England, did not responded to BBC requests for comment.