Minister Summons Bank Bosses Over Nigel Farage Account Closure

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Jul 25, 2023 - 07:30 AM

Authored by Alexander Zhang via The Epoch Times,

Bank chiefs have been summoned for a meeting with Treasury ministers to discuss how customers can be protected from “being de-banked” after Nigel Farage accused Coutts of closing his account due to his political views.

The former UK Independence Party leader claimed earlier this month that the prestigious bank he had been with for over 40 years has closed his account with “no explanation.”

Last week, Mr. Farage released dossiers he had acquired from the bank, which indicated that Coutts shut his bank account because it found his public statements did “not align” with its values.

City Minister Andrew Griffith is expected to write to the chief executives of 19 banks, building societies, and digital challengers on Monday, warning that regulations around “politically exposed persons” (PEP) are “being applied in a disproportionate manner by some financial institutions.”

He said the government will “take all action necessary” to protect customers from such practices.

‘Fundamental Right’

Mr. Griffith says in the letter: “You will be aware of recent publicity around allegations of client de-banking in recent weeks and months.

“This has raised significant concern in both Houses of Parliament, including throughout the passage of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2023, and in recent days.”

The minister said the government is “unequivocal” that banks and other payment service providers “should not be terminating contracts of payment account facilities on grounds relating to users’ exercising of their right to lawful freedom of expression.”

He said the government “strongly supports this fundamental right afforded to all people in British society and will take the action necessary to protect it.”

Mr. Griffith added, “I am calling a roundtable at the earliest opportunity to hear your views on how you and your firms will ensure that customers can access payment accounts without fear of being de-banked for their lawful expression, and necessary actions to be taken to implement the reforms announced.”

The letter is to be sent to NatWest, Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, HSBC, Nationwide Building Society, Santander, Virgin Money, and Co-operative Bank.

Other chief executives expected to receive the invite include those at TSB, Metro, Allied Irish, Danske Bank, and Bank of Ireland, while the heads of digital finance outfits at Monzo, Starling, Chase, PayPal, Revolut, and Wise will also be called to the Treasury.

‘Deeply Inappropriate’

Last week, Mr. Farage released pages of documents in the Daily Mail that he obtained after he made a subject access request to his former bank Coutts.

The document mentioned that he reshared a tweet by the comedian Ricky Gervais mocking transgenderism, which the document called “a transphobic comedy sketch.”

His support for former U.S. President Donald Trump, as well as his views on immigration, net zero, and the COVID-19 vaccine, were also listed as reasons to exit him.

The document said that Mr. Farage is “xenophobic and racist” and that his views “were at odds with our position as an inclusive organisation.”

The bank’s behaviour has been condemned by senior Tories, including Home Secretary Suella Braverman, Net Zero Minister Grant Shapps, and former minister David Davis.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wrote on Twitter: “This is wrong. No one should be barred from using basic services for their political views. Free speech is the cornerstone of our democracy.”

Alison Rose, chief executive of NatWest Group, of which Coutts is part of the wealth management division, wrote to Mr. Farage to apologise for “deeply inappropriate comments” made about him in official documents, which she said, “do not reflect the view of the bank.”

“No individual should have to read such comments and I apologise to Mr. Farage for this. I have written to him today to make that apology and reiterate our offer of alternative banking arrangements,” she added.