The UK Home Office announced on Friday that the country’s post-Brexit blue passports will be launched already next month, keeping mum, however, on the fact that the passports had been made at a Franco-Dutch company’s factory located in Poland, The Times reports.
A subsidiary of the French multinational group Thales got the better of its British competitor De La Rue last year to win £260 million ($336 million) 11-year contract which complies with EU procurement rules.
The Prime Minister and Home Secretary have revealed the new blue, post-Brexit passport.— Planet Rock News (@PlanetRockNews) February 22, 2020
They're being made in Poland by a Franco-Dutch firm.
They'll be sent out from the end of March, but burgundy ones will still be valid until they expire.#bluepassport #Brexit pic.twitter.com/KaphJKwbie
The Daily Mail reported late last week that the factory in the Polish town of Tczew that produces the UK’s new passports is facing an investigation by Poland’s largest trade union after the newspaper revealed that factory staff feel underpaid and poorly treated.
The news outlet cited an unnamed worker as saying that they work “12-hour shifts anyway, but the company strongly encourages overtime, which can be exhausting; working there can feel like a prison sometimes”.
While the average wage in the Polish manufacturing industry stands at £745 ($965) a month, workers at the Tczew factory reportedly earn £400 ($518).
Thales, in turn, underscored that it “has always been compliant with the labour laws applied in the 68 countries where the company is present”.
“We are a very dynamic employer in Poland, fully respecting health-and-safety regulations. The wellbeing of our 80,000 employees worldwide is paramount and we consider their workplace wellness a priority”, the company added.
New UK Passport Sparks Controversy
The Home Office has, meanwhile, confirmed that the first batches of the blue passports will be delivered in "early March" in a phased way to replace the standard-issue burgundy passports that were rolled out across EU countries from 1988.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said in this context that “by returning to the iconic blue and gold design, the British passport will once again be entwined with our national identity and I cannot wait to travel on one”.
“Leaving the European Union gave us a unique opportunity to restore our national identity and forge a new path in the world”, she pointed out.
A UK government spokesperson, in turn, promoted the new passport as the most technologically advanced document, which contains “a raft of new and updated security features, including a hard-wearing, super-strength polycarbonate data page, which contains innovative technologies embedded into the document, to keep personal data secure”.
The UK passport is now back in blue post-Brexit. Fascinating what the world distribution of passport colors looks like. pic.twitter.com/H85kkQGnA5— Jon Hartley (@Jon_Hartley_) February 21, 2020
Some, however, were not that upbeat about the matter, with MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, patron of the European Movement, claiming that the blue passport may be seen as offensive by many Europeans.
“It will be seen as a symbol of the attitude prevailing in the Conservative party towards the rest of Europe that is isolationist, ignorant and self-destructive”, he argued.
He was echoed by Claire Hanna, the pro-European Social Democratic and Labour MP for Belfast South, who said that even though the colour changes, “the opportunity and potential has been restricted”.
“In this case, blue will represent economic harm and limited horizons for the passport holder, and that is a crying shame”, she asserted.