The tender was issued last month via TED, the official electronic tendering journal of the European Union, meaning that the contract could go to a company outside the UK. Under EU rules the government is obliged to advertise contracts of this size via TED.
New passport designs are sought every five years and the call would have been made anyway, but the timing coincides with last week's triggering of Article 50, which starts the two-year process leading up to the UK's departure from the EU.
Due to be issued in 2019, the new passport will be the first for many years that will not carry the name of the European Union, and will not need to have an EU-style burgundy cover.
Speaking to Dezeen in February, Julian Payne, creative director of document supplier De La Rue, said the new passport is "likely to become a defining symbol of Britain's new identity and relationship with the world."
He added: "The term of the current [passport] book design and manufacture is a 10-year cycle and the tender's timing with our exit from the European Union is quite coincidental."
The tender announcement also coincides with the judging of Dezeen's Brexit passport design competition, which took place last week. The shortlist is due to be announced later today. Update: Dezeen has published the nine shortlisted entries for it's Brexit passport design competition.