Battle over De La Rue’s blue passport printing descends into farce

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Feeling blue at the end of the Easter break? Fear not! If you’re the sort of person who laughs at absurdity there’s truckloads of it to start the working week courtesy of passport printer De La Rue. 

The company that likes to boast of how it prints documents for the world, is, we are told, going to appeal against the world coming in to print documents for Britain.

De La Rue is hoping to capitalise on the firestorm it ignited over the half billion pound contract to print the post-Brexit blue passport being awarded (hee hee) to French-Dutch firm Gemalto, on account of it offering the best deal for the taxpayer. 

With the Brexit-backing media up in arms, lots of free wheelin’, free tradin’ Tories have suddenly become converts to the cause of protectionism. They’ve lined up to back the UK-listed multinational, indulging in the sort of behaviour they usually like to criticise the EU for.

But consistency has never been one of the strong points of the Brexiteer army.  

All this has created quite the migraine for ministers, given that there are (in theory) supposed to be rules about the way things like contract awards are supposed to be handled. 

Some of them are, yes, EU rules, which we have to obey while we are still a part of the club. 

So could there be a “get out of jail free” card there? One last chance to blame Brussels for a problem that was created elsewhere?

That’s a risky game to be getting into. We can’t very well sign free trade deals with others if we don’t let their companies come in and bid for our contracts on the basis of pre-agreed rules. Ministers know this, and that includes the Brexiteers among them. De La Rue, which is fond of bidding for other governments’ contracts, also knows this.

Theresa May and Co should further be aware that they will create a huge problem for themselves if they try and fix things in De La Rue’s favour. Others will surely ask for the same help if they do.

It’s quite a pickle they’ve found themselves in, and De La Rue’s appeal will only serve to prolong their misery. 

As for Britain’s reputation for being a sensible and grownup country? Well that went down the De La Loo a long time ago. The rest of the world has been laughing at us ever since the Brexit vote. We might as well join in. 

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