What better way than this to ensure that the UK has to abide by EU data laws post-Brexit?
The post-Brexit UK blue passports are now likely to be made the Franco-Dutch company Gemalto in a £490 million contract.
De La Rue, the UK supplier that has held this contract since 2009, says it has been undercut on price by Gemalto.
Talking to the BBC’s Today programme the chief executive of De La Rue, Martin Sutherland, said:
"Over the last few months we have heard ministers happy to come on and talk about the new blue passport and the fact that it is an icon of British identity.
"But now this icon of British identity is going to be manufactured in France.
"I'd like to ask Theresa May or Amber Rudd to come to my factory and explain to our dedicated workforce why this is a sensible decision to offshore the manufacture of a British icon."
This has of course come under fire from Brexiteers with Tory MP Sir Bill Cash saying:
“I think it is incongruous to say the least. It is completely unnecessary and it is symbolically completely wrong.
“Whatever the conditions which led to the decision in terms of pricing, the fact is that this is a symbolic event.”
And another Tory MP, Priti Patel, told the Sun:
“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.
“I would urge Amber Rudd and the Government to look again at the powers they have to see what they can do.”
Firstly, as far as I am concerned with all the features they now have, passports are security documents. Now that we are leaving the EU surely passports should be produced and issued in the UK, whatever EU law is currently in force whilst we are still temporarily in the bloc.
Secondly, we have no trade deal with the European Union yet. I assume that under WTO trade rules passports would be classed as printed books or the like. Now, one assumes that there will therefore be no tariffs on the import of such goods, or this would be an own goal of epic proportions should we end up with no deal and tariffs are applied when they are imported and the applicant (or taxpayer) has to pay for it.
Thirdly, the Home Office issues about six million passports a year. These will have to be transported to the UK securely, reliably and quickly. Which transport firm gets that contract and who controls them? Let’s hope we don’t have any issues there.
Fourthly and most importantly, to produce the passports the Home Office will have to arrange for applicants’ data to be transmitted electronically out of the UK and into the EU (any other method is a nonsense). This must surely mean that EU and UK data transmission and data protection laws must be in full harmony – permanently. Will this require the UK to sign up fully to EU law in this area? Which company will have that contract to safeguard the data and will the UK Supreme Court have jurisdiction, or will it be the European Court of Justice?
As I understand it, the final decision on whether to award the contract to Gemalto has yet to be made.
These UK blue passports may be ‘iconic’ and it may be ‘unnecessary and symbolically wrong’ to send the contract to the EU, but there are more worrying issues here and you have to wonder whether this is really just another opportunity for a remain led administration in the UK to keep a few more ties with the EU.