Banks may lose their UK licenses if they refuse clients due to political views

(Alliance News) – Banks in the UK could lose their licenses if they close customer accounts over their political views, it has been reported.

And according to The Times, ministers are considering new laws that would stop banks from turning away customers in a bid to protect freedom of expression.

The Treasury Department will announce plans as early as next week to extend the notice period for customers to close their accounts from one month to three months.

Banks will also have to explain why the accounts were closed and customers will be able to appeal the decision.

It comes after Coutts closed Nigel Farage’s bank accounts because his views “do not match” the bank’s values.

Farage told The Daily Telegraph that the bank had identified members of his family and acquaintances as politically exposed persons.

He said that someone close to him had closed his account and that others were having problems using the bank’s facilities.

“We’ve had several very bad account opening rejections and closures a few weeks ago,” he said.

Meanwhile, senior Tory MPs put pressure on Coutts and its owner, NatWest Group PLC, after Farage’s accounts were closed.

Speaking in the House of Lords on Wednesday, Baroness Penn, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said: “I think we can all agree that the right to statutory freedom of expression is fundamental.

“Where this appears to be called into question by the provision of services, we have cause for concern.”

Sunak’s press secretary, answering questions from reporters after the PMQ, said it would be “incredibly upsetting and wrong” for Farage’s account to be closed due to his political views.

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“No one should be excluded from banking services because of their political views,” she said.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the decision “completely undermines the confidence we have in our banking and financial systems”.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said it amounted to “veiled political discrimination” and called it “an upset, irresponsible and undemocratic act”.

Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps said the financial institution’s decision was “absolutely outrageous,” while Home Secretary Soella Braverman called the situation “a scandal.”

She tweeted, “NatWest and other companies that have naively embraced this politically biased ideology should think again.”

City Secretary Andrew Griffiths spoke of “serious concerns” and said banks are required under their license to allow anyone they disagree with to become a customer.

The FCA said it would discuss the situation with NatWest.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Farage said his experience had led him to fear that the UK was moving towards a “Chinese-style social credit system” where only people of “acceptable views” could participate in society.

“I’m basically broke. How do I pay my gas bill? What did I do wrong? I didn’t break the law,” he said.

Farage, who is also the former leader of the UK Independence Party (Ukip), says he submitted a substantive access request to obtain documents from Coutts’ Reputational Risk Committee detailing the rationale used to close his account.

He handed over 40 pages of documents to MailOnline, which reportedly expressed concern about the perception that Farage was “xenophobic and racist”.

The bank file is said to include comments about Brexit, a retweet of a joke by Ricky Gervais about trans women and his friendship with vulnerable tennis player Novak Djokovic.

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His defense of the conduct of former US President Donald Trump and Farage’s criticism of the UK government’s policy of cutting carbon emissions to zero by 2050 have also been challenged.

Written by Cormac Pearson and Patrick Daly, Pennsylvania

Source: PA

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