Blue passports to return, print contract still TBC

By Jo Francis, Friday 22 December 2017

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UK passports will revert to the navy blue colour first introduced almost a century ago as part of the changes around Brexit.


New-look, old-style blue passport

Passports have been the burgundy colour agreed by EU members for almost 30 years.

An announcement from HM Passport Office today (22 December) confirmed that as the travel document will no longer be required to conform to EU standards, it would revert to dark blue with gold embossing from October 2019.

“In a move to symbolise our national identity, the cover will be changing from the standard EU burgundy colour to a blue and gold design,” the Passport Office stated.

Blue passports were first introduced in 1921.

The £490m, ten-year contract to produce UK passports is currently subject to a tender process, with incumbent De La Rue pitching to retain the work in the face of competition from overseas rivals.

It had been expected that an announcement on the outcome of the tender would be made before Christmas, but today’s update on the process said a supplier would be confirmed in spring 2018.

De La Rue is the world’s largest manufacturer of passports, and produces more than 15 million a year, with around six million of those for the UK.

Immigration minister Brandon Lewis was quizzed on the likely outcry if a foreign supplier were to be appointed when he was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning.

He said that some of the passport elements were currently produced overseas, “but all the security measures take place here in the UK.”

As part of a manufacturing footprint review instigated in 2015, De La Rue created a centre of excellence for passports and security printing in Malta.

A Passport Office spokesman confirmed to PrintWeek that some of the paper aspects of current passports are produced in Malta, “but all the personalisation and security features are done in the UK.”

In a series of tweets, Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke demanded the contract remained in the UK, describing the government as "barmy enough to do or say anything". 


The Passport Office announcement also revealed that the new blue passport will feature a variety of enhanced security elements.

The picture page will be made of a “super-strength polycarbonate material”, rather than the existing paper, making it more difficult to alter.

The blue passports will be phased in gradually, with the burgundy passport continuing to be issued for an unspecified period, but with references to the European Union removed.

Lewis stated: “Leaving the EU gives us a unique opportunity to restore our national identity and forge a new path for ourselves in the world.

“That is why I am delighted to announce that the British passport will be returning to the iconic blue and gold design after we have left the European Union in 2019.”

Brexiteers had campaigned vociferously for a return to the blue passport. During his Today interview, Lewis said: “I know people on both sides of the referendum debate who liked the blue passport. For many people it’s an iconic blue.”

It is coincidental that the UK’s exit from the EU will take place at the same time as the new passport contract comes into effect. 

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