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PASSPORT

‘A national humiliation’: Britain’s post-Brexit blue passports to be made by the French

A mixture of outrage and hilarity (depending on what side you are on) has greeted the news that the shiny new blue British passports set to replace the current red ones after the UK leaves the European Union will in fact be made by a French-dutch company.

'A national humiliation': Britain's post-Brexit blue passports to be made by the French
Photo: AFP PHOTO / UK PASSPORT OFFICE
The 10-year contract for making the passports which is said to be worth £500 million was won by the Franco-Dutch company Gemalto after it undercut its British rival De La Rue by £50 million, according to reports. 
 
Gemalto was founded in France in 1988 and is listed on both French and Dutch stock exchanges. It is owned by the French giant industrial giant Thales.
 
The business, whose headquarters are in Amsterdam is mostly known for producing phone sim cards however it also produces passports for 30 other countries including France, in a top-secret location somewhere in Europe.
 
There is speculation that the printing site is located at Gemalto's site in Geménos, just outside Marseille. The company also has another major site nearby at La Ciotat.
 
But the blue passports are seen by many Brexit supporters as an iconic symbol of the country's independence from Europe. 
 
So the news that it will be a French company rather than a British one producing them has left emotions running high.  
 
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Photo: AFP

“This should be a moment that we should be celebrating. The return of our iconic blue passport will re-establish the British identity,” former cabinet minister Priti Patel told The Sun.
 
“But to be putting the job in the hands of the French is simply astonishing. It is a national humiliation.” 
 
Similarly, Tory MP Sir Bill Cash, chairman of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee labelled the move “completely wrong and unnecessary”.
 
While the head of De La Rue Martin Sutherland told BBC Radio 4 that he found it “disappointing and surprising” that this “icon of British identity is going to be manufactured in France”.
 
Meanwhile the Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake summed up the situation like this: “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.”
 
So how did it happen?
 
Well, it turns out the tender to produce the passport was put out across the EU  single market rules.
 
No doubt that information will leave Brexit supporters even redder than their current passports.

TRAVEL NEWS

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

OPINION UK-France travel crisis will only be solved when the British get real about Brexit

The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.

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