The contract to print new blue British passports, hailed as a symbol of the country’s freedom post-Brexit, is poised to be handed to a firm based on mainland Europe.
The news has sparked outrage, especially among Brexiteers, with ex-cabinet minister Priti Patel calling the decision “disgraceful” and “perverse”.
Sir Bill Cash, chair of the influential European Scrutiny Committee was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying the move was “completely wrong and unnecessary”.
It was reported on Wednesday night that British firm De La Rue was poised to lose its current deal to Gemalto.
Gemalto is a firm with its headquarters in Amsterdam but is also listed on the Paris stock exchange.
The boss of De La Rue said on Thursday that he was disappointed the UK Government had decided the new post-Brexit blue document will be made in France.
Martin Sutherland, chief executive of De La Rue, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “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.”
The new contract will be worth £490 million and will start in 2019.
There was always the chance that the passports would be made outside the UK, as was pointed out last year.
As the tender process has to be undertaken according to European Union competition rules, there can be no disadvantage to European firms.
The other company in the running has been a manufacturer based in Germany.
But the deal is yet to be finalised, and some think it might not be all over yet.
Remain supporters reacted not entirely with sympathy.
But is it such a big deal to Brexiteers?
While Theresa May has linked the return of blue passports to exiting the European Union, Brussels has pointed out that Britain could have chosen to have a new hue while remaining a member of the EU.
The European Parliament’s chief Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt emphasised that there was no Brussels regulation stating that EU countries’ passports had to be a certain colour - there is only a legally non-binding European council resolution from 1981 which recommends burgundy.