Passport manufacturer De La Rue (LON: DLAR) will challenge the UK government over its plans to produce the new blue British passports at the Franco-Dutch firm,Gemalto (AMS: GTO).

According to the Financial Times, De La Rue will launch an appeal based on the fact that while it may not offer the best price, it offers the best quality and security.

In a statement, the group said: “Based on our knowledge of the market, it’s our view that ours was the highest quality and technically most secure bid.”

“We can accept that we weren’t the cheapest,” they added.

De La Rue is based in Gateshead and has 600 employees. Martin Sutherland, the group’s chief executive said that Theresa May should “come to my factory and explain to my dedicated workforce why they think this is a sensible decision to offshore the manufacture of a British icon”.

Over the last few months, we have heard ministers happy to come on the media and talk about the new blue passport and the fact that it is an icon of British identity. But now this icon of British identity is going to be manufactured in France.”

A Daily Mail petition that called for the government to award the contract to the British manufacturer has reached 266,000 signatures.

Ministers have defended their decision, saying the move was “rigorous, fair and open competition” and would save UK taxpayers £120 million. 

“The reality is that in a fair procurement process, we had to look at quality, security and price, and this was the contract that provided the best value on all counts,” said the  immigration minister, Caroline Nokes.

The move to the original blue passports was announced earlier this year by the Prime Minister, who said that the change was an “expression of our independence and sovereignty”.