A top aide for Prime Minister Theresa May has dismissed claims that Britain’s new blue passports will cost £500 million as ‘fake news’.
Robbie Gibb, Mrs May’s director of communications, borrowed Donald Trump‘s favourite phrase to quash claims that the change in passport will hit taxpayers’ wallets.
It came after entrepreneur and former Dragon’s Den panellist James Caan quoted the figure.
Tweeting a news article on the subject from April, he added: ‘A country that would spend £500m to change the colour of a passport while children sleep on the streets is a country whose priorities are wholly out of whack.’
But Mr Gibb hit back, saying: ‘Fake news harms our democracy.
‘Those who would deliberately misrepresent public policy for political gain – be it passports or animal sentience – should be called out.’
On Friday, the Government revealed the current burgundy cover on British passports will be replaced by a ‘traditional’ blue cover that has been absent since the 1980s.
The new passports will start being distributed once the UK leaves the EU in 2019.
They will be produced as part of a £490 million contract which includes printing and assembling passports, and runs for 11-and-a-half years.
Mr Caan’s original tweet was shared more than 27,000 times, but he clarified the cost in a follow-up post.
He wrote: ‘Good news. Having researched the cost of providing new passports it appears the £500m for the colour is fake news.’
There is no EU regulation stating that passports for people living in a country within the bloc have to be a certain colour.
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit coordinator, has said Britain could have simply switched to blue passports while remaining a member of the EU.
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