British banks wanting to close a customer’s account will have to give a three-month notice period and give the reason for the decision, according to the plans of the Ministry of Finance. This is a response to the alleged closure of accounts for customers whose views the banks do not agree with.
The case made headlines in late June when Nigel Farage, for years the UK’s main advocate for Britain’s exit from the European Union, revealed that his bank accounts, both personal and business, had been closed without notice, which he claimed was due to because of his political views.
The Nigel Farage case
A few days later, it was suggested that insufficient assets were the reason for closing the accounts, but on Wednesday Farage in the Daily Telegraph presented documents obtained from the Coutts bank, which indeed states that his views “do not align with our values”. .
As Farage pointed out, the 40-page dossier contains the word “Brexit” 86 times, “Russia” – 144 times, the name of former US President Donald Trump – 39 times, and it is mentioned that he is critical of immigration , climate strategy and compulsory vaccination, and that he is “perceived as xenophobic and racist”. As such, the Coutts bank believes that its association with Farage is damaging its reputation.
“This story is not just about me. If this situation is left unchecked, we will be sleepwalking towards a Chinese-style social credit system where only those with ‘correct’ views can fully participate in society,” Farage wrote in the Daily Telegraph. “.
In fact, the case is not just about Farage, because the Daily Telegraph already a few days ago reported similar cases of alleged closures of accounts of people or organizations whose views the banks consider controversial. This, in turn, raises questions about whether banks and other financial institutions are not abusing their position and limiting freedom of speech.
“It would be very worrying if financial services were denied to someone exercising their right to free speech. Companies have the right to be protected from reputational risk – for example, from criminal activity – but the privilege of a banking license in a democracy should mean an obligation not to ‘bank’ someone, because we disagree with someone else’s views,” Andrew Griffith, one of the deputy finance ministers, tweeted on Wednesday. Several prominent MPs from the ruling Conservative Party also expressed concern about the case on Wednesday.
Changes in regulations
Griffith is expected to announce new rules in the next few days which will require banks to give three months’ notice and a reason for the decision if they want to close a customer’s account, and customers will have the right to appeal. The only exception will be if there is a suspicion of criminal activity or a threat to national security.
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