It has been reported that the post-Brexit blue passport for the UK could be produced in Europe rather than the UK itself.
It was confirmed by the British government last year that the passport would revert to the old blue colour from the current EU standard of burgundy after the UK leaves the bloc.
Officials described it as a move to 'symbolise our national identity'.
The company that has produced British passports for the last decade now says it has been told by the UK Home Office that it has not won a bid to produce the post-Brexit travel document.
In a statement, De La Rue said the company has "successfully produced the British passport for 10 years and are very disappointed not to be able to continue to do this, despite submitting a high quality, competitive bid".
It adds: "De La Rue will fight this decision. The UK passport is an icon of national identity and we believe it should be manufactured in the UK by a British company."
De La Rue have successfully produced the British passport for 10 years and are very disappointed not to be able to continue to do this, despite submitting a high quality, competitive bid. #passport pic.twitter.com/MGy2Pj2y0U
— De La Rue (@DeLaRuePlc) March 22, 2018
The boss of the company told BBC the Franco-Dutch firm Gemalto had won the £490m (€560m) contract, suggesting the documents would be produced in France.
The news prompted a frustrated response from some British politicians, with Conservative MP Bill Cash claiming awarding the contract to an EU-based company would be "completely wrong and unnecessary".
"Rigorous, fair and open competition"
A UK Home Office spokesperson did not confirm a winning bidder, instead saying: "The preferred bidder has been selected following a rigorous, fair and open competition and all bidders were notified of the outcome last night.
"The chosen company demonstrated that they will be best able to meet the needs of our passport service with a high quality and secure product at the best value for money for our customers and the taxpayer.
"It's been the case since 2009 that we do not require passports to be manufactured in the UK. A proportion of passports have been made overseas since then with up to 20 percent of blank passport books currently produced in Europe with no security or operational concerns."
While heralded by the likes of Theresa May, last year's announcement of a blue passport also drew widespread mockery and criticism.
The European Parliament's Brexit Coordinator Guy Verhofstadt insisted: "There is no EU legislation dictating passport colour. The UK could have had any passport colour it wanted and stay in the EU."
If we had known in advance that blue was so important to the UK, we could simply have replaced our passports by this one ?? pic.twitter.com/fnUiLowyq7
— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) December 23, 2017
The new passports are set to be issued from October 2019.
Additional reporting by IRN