July 19, 2024

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Treasury to convene bank executives regarding the Farage dispute

The Treasury has organised a meeting with bank executives to address the issue of account closures, which arose after a dispute between Nigel Farage and NatWest. Minister Andrew Griffith expressed “significant concern” over allegations that accounts are being closed due to people’s political views. NatWest’s CEO, Dame Alison Rose, issued an apology to Mr. Farage, who has called for her to be questioned by Members of Parliament. Mr. Farage claims that his account at Coutts, a subsidiary of NatWest, was closed because of his political opinions. The government had already been investigating concerns about account closures linked to publicly-stated views, but the situation involving the former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader has drawn more public attention to the matter.

In response to the growing concerns, City Minister Andrew Griffith wrote a letter addressing the recent allegations of “client de-banking,” expressing that this issue has raised significant concern in Parliament. The government is determined to safeguard lawful freedom of expression and plans to take appropriate action. The letter is expected to be sent to 19 banks and financial services firms, with a call for a discussion with bank leaders at the earliest opportunity.

Furthermore, the Treasury has already announced plans to impose stricter rules on UK banks regarding account closures. Banks will be required to provide explanations for account closures and give a 90-day notice period to allow customers more time to appeal the decision.

When Coutts decided to close Mr. Farage’s account, no specific reason was given. However, Mr. Farage later obtained a document examining his suitability as a Coutts customer, which cited concerns that his views were not consistent with Coutts’ inclusive values and flagged him as “xenophobic and racist,” posing a reputational risk to the bank.

Dame Alison Rose, the CEO of NatWest Group, apologised to Mr. Farage for the “deeply inappropriate” comments made in the document and committed to conducting a full review of Coutts’ account closure processes.

The situation highlights the importance of addressing concerns over account closures tied to political views, and the government aims to protect the right to freedom of expression while ensuring fairness and transparency in banking practises.