Soon the purveyors of official Britishness will likely be Dutch.
The British company De La Rue, which has made the UK’s passports for the past nine years, has lost the bid to manufacture the kingdom’s redesigned post-Brexit passport. Gemalto, a Dutch company with headquarters outside Paris, in Singapore, and in Austin, Texas, has reportedly won the contract, though the British home office has declined to confirm.
The UK announced in December that, free from the shackles of the EU’s citizenship standards, it would return to the iconic dark-blue British passport. (It had switched to burgundy in 1988.) The new passports will be issued in 2019, after the UK’s official exit from the EU. The immigration office called the return to blue ”a move to symbolise our national identity,” a line that looks all the more spurious in light of word of the new contract.
Without alluding to the winning company, a home office spokesperson said in an emailed statement that “the preferred bidder has been selected following a rigorous, fair and open competition.” The department points out that since 2009, it hasn’t been a requirement for the UK passports to be manufactured domestically, and that 20% of its blank passport books are currently made in wider Europe. The new contract—reportedly worth £490 million (about $690 million) over 10 years—will create 70 new jobs in the UK and save taxpayers £120 million over the length of the contract, adds the home office.
Gemalto, a public company registered in the Netherlands, would not confirm that it has won the contract. “As the process is still ongoing and the terms of engagement are confidential, we cannot make any further comment on it at this stage,” it said.
Meanwhile, De La Rue is not going quietly. “We are deeply disappointed that the contract to manufacture the British passport will be awarded to a French company,” the company said in an email, adding, “This shows a serious lack of commitment to British business from the UK government.” On its site, De La Rue says it will consider appealing the decision. De La Rue makes passports for 40 countries and printed the new £5 note, as well as the £10 note, which features the face of Jane Austen.