A Dutch company is poised to win the contract to make the iconic blue British passport after the UK leaves the European Union, the Telegraph understands.
In a move set to infuriate Brexiteers, sources have told this newspaper that Gemalto, which is listed on the Amsterdam and Paris stock exchanges, is close to signing the contract after undercutting rivals, including a British firm, by around £50 million.
Sir Bill Cash, chair of the influential European Scrutiny Committee, said the decision which is expected to be finalised shortly was "completely wrong and unnecessary".
The re-introduction of the British blue passport is seen as a important symbolic move and it is a blow to British companies that the contract is set to go abroad. It is understood that under EU single market rules, the contract had to be put out for tender across the continent.
Sir Bill said: "I think it is incongruous to say the least. It is just completely unnecessary and in fact 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.
"Leaving the European Union is the biggest thing that's happened in British politics for half a century and quite frankly I can't think of any reason why it should be given to any company other than a British one."
His concerns are understood to be shared by Brexit-supporting ministers who say that the imminent awarding of the contract sends out the wrong signal.
A number of companies, including one French, one German and one Dutch were said to be in the running for the £490 million contract to make the so-called Brexit passport according to reports late last year.
The row over the blue passport is set to overshadow Theresa May's attendance at a Brussels summit today and tomorrow at which EU leaders are expected to formally agree to a transition period after Brexit.
Yesterday Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, said the agreement will delay the “negative consequences” of Brexit for 21 months in a statement confirming he has recommended that the Council signs off on the deal.
The Prime Minister will also use the summit to urge EU leaders to begin a mass expulsion of Russian diplomats, warning them “we are all at risk”.
The Prime Minister will rally support for an international response to the Salisbury poisonings by hammering home the message that Vladimir Putin is a threat who will “endure for years to come”.
Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, hinted yesterday that England fans could be advised not to travel to the Russia 2018 World Cup as he compared the event to Adolf Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Russia yesterday accused Britain of deliberately concealing evidence relating to the Salisbury attack and questioned whether it even involved a nerve agent.
At a “briefing” for foreign diplomats in Moscow, Vladimir Yermakov, Russia’s head of non-proliferation and arms control, suggested his country was being “blatantly framed”.
Russia is now being described in Government as a “strategic enemy” of the UK and Mr Putin’s re-election as Russian president on Sunday has only served to tighten his grip on the Kremlin.
At a dinner with her 27 European counterparts tonight Mrs May will tell the EU leaders: “The challenge of Russia is one that will endure for years to come.
As a European democracy the United Kingdom will stand shoulder to shoulder with the European Union and with Nato to face these threats together. United we will succeed.”
A senior Downing Street official added: “The Russian threat does not respect borders and as such we are all at risk.” Mrs May will encourage both individual leaders and the EU as a whole to expel Russian diplomats, saying the Salisbury poisonings show the threat that is posed by Russia to the national security of every EU member.
Mr Johnson compared Russia’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup to Adolf Hitler presiding over the 1936 Berlin Olympics, saying it would be sickening to see Mr Putin “glorying in this sporting event”.
The Foreign Secretary also hinted that England fans could be advised not to travel to the tournament because some England matches are being held in cities notorious for nationalism and hooliganism.
One of the 23 Britons expelled from Russia was responsible for fan safety at the World Cup.
Asked about the new passport a Home Office spokesperson, said:
“We are running a fair and open competition to ensure that the new contract delivers a high quality and secure product and offers the best value for money for customers.
"All passports will continue to be personalised with the holder’s details in the United Kingdom, meaning that no personal data will leave the UK.
“We do not require passports to be manufactured from the UK. A proportion of blank passport books are currently manufactured overseas, and there are no security or operational reasons why this would not continue.”