The post-Brexit passport will not be produced by the British company De La Rue, who currently hold the contract for UK passport production version, its chief executive confirmed. It is understood that Gemalto won the tender for the £490m printing job.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the chief executive of De La Rue, Martin Sutherland, challenged the prime minister or the home secretary to “come to my factory and explain my dedicated workforce why they think this is a sensible decision to offshore the manufacture of a British icon”. He said he would appeal against the decision, and he refused to guarantee that no jobs would be lost at the Gateshead plant the firm uses to produce the burgundy version. Sutherland acknowledged that his firm had been beaten on price in an open competition, but he said that was unfair. He said that in France, as a foreign-based firm, De La Rue would be barred from bidding to produce the French passport.
However, it is expected that De La Rue is set to announce it will challenge the government over its decision to allow Gemalto to manufacture the passport from 2019. The company will formally launch an appeal against the decision to award the £490m contract to Gemalto on the grounds that it believes it had the best offer on quality and security, though not on price, according to the Financial Times.
Gemalto has not yet been formally announced as the winning bidder, but the 10-day standstill period in the tender process – the mandatory time between the contract being awarded and when it is formally signed with the successful supplier – is believed to expire on today. The Home Office has previously said changing the contractor would save UK taxpayers £120m and would lead to the creation of about 70 jobs at Fareham in Hampshire and Heywood in Lancashire. One of Gemalto’s five current UK outposts is in Fareham. The decision has been met with a storm of criticism from Brexit-backing MPs, as well as Labour and trade unions.
The Liberal Democrats’ Brexit spokesman, Tom Brake, commenting, “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.”
Confirming that it was starting the process of challenging the Home Office, which awards the contract, De La Rue said in a statement: “Based on our knowledge of the market, it’s our view that ours was the highest quality and technically most secure bid.” While accepting that its tender represented a significant discount on the current price, the company said: “We can accept that we weren’t the cheapest.”