Nigel Farage had his bank accounts shut down with the high-net-worth bank Coutts after officials decided the former conservative politician’s views did not align with the bank’s values, it has emerged.
The former UKIP and Brexit Party leader went public last month with the difficulties he was having in opening a U.K. bank account after Coutts, an institution he had been banking with for almost a decade, inexplicably closed his accounts and several other banks refused his applications to open a new one.
Coutts briefed the BBC and the Financial Times following the public accusation by Farage that the decision to close his accounts had been politically motivated, insisting that Mr. Farage had fallen below the financial threshold required to be a customer of the private bank. The move led to criticism of Coutts for revealing personal financial information about one of its former clients and raised ethical questions about the institution’s conduct.
New evidence obtained by Farage now contradicts the initial response provided by the bank.
In a 40-page dossier Mr. Farage acquired via a subject access request, Coutts made it clear that his conservative views were problematic for the bank, citing Brexit no fewer than 86 times, and his support of Donald Trump who is mentioned 39 times.
The minutes of a meeting of Coutts’ wealth reputational risk committee held on Nov. 17 last year stated that Mr. Farage is “seen as xenophobic and racist. He is considered to be a disingenuous grifter. Being associated with Nigel Farage presents a material and ongoing reputational risk to the bank.”
The bank does not state who “sees” Mr. Farage in this fashion, or why this individual or social group holds weight in a decision on whether or not to provide a British citizen with a U.K. bank account. It should be noted that Mr. Farage has won elections in Britain as the leader of a political party, namely the European parliamentary elections with the Brexit Party in 2017, and wields considerable public support.
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Executives at the bank agreed that Farage, because of his political views, should be “de-banked.”
Writing for the Telegraph, Farge called the “Stasi-style surveillance report” shocking.
“Monthly press checks were made on me. My social media accounts were monitored. Anything considered ‘problematic’ was recorded. I was being watched,” he wrote.
“This report is proof that any Coutts customer who holds even vaguely conservative views should be treated with disdain.”
Farage explained that the dossier also reported on his friendship with Novak Djokovic who was publicly shunned after refusing to take the Covid-19 vaccine, and his retweeting of a Ricky Gervais joke about leaving the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), a position it should be noted that has been advocated by Home Secretary Suella Braverman on multiple occasions, albeit not as official government policy.
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“The most extraordinary comments of all are the areas of the report talking about me ‘not aligning with their views’ and suggesting I must be barred because I do not support the diversity, policies and ‘purpose’ of Coutts, as though Britain is a political regime and I am a dissident,” Farage added.
He warned that anyone else deemed unpalatable by the establishment could be next, and said that “if this situation is left unchecked, we will sleepwalk towards a China-style social credit system in which only those with the ‘correct’ views are allowed to fully participate in society.”
Politicians have commented on the scandal following the publication by Farage of Coutt’s communications, including Energy Security Grant Shapps, who suggested on Wednesday that new legislation may need to be introduced to combat banks acting above their station and delving into politics.
“I think it’s absolutely disgraceful. I don’t have to agree with everything Nigel Farage says to recognize that free speech is a very, very important part of our domestic life,” he said.
”People shouldn’t have their banks closed because of their political or any other view, and banks shouldn’t be refusing to open accounts on that basis as well. And yet there’s a very, very long-running problem in this country where banks are misapplying the guidance and rules and not just closing accounts but refusing to open them in the first place. That shouldn’t be the case,” he added.
Economic Secretary to the Treasury Andrew Griffith also expressed “serious concern” over banks closing accounts based on customers’ political views, and Home Secretary Suella Braverman described the development as “sinister” and urged banks to have a “major rethink” of woke policies.
Later on Wednesday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted: “This is wrong. No one should be barred from using basic services for their political views. Free speech is the cornerstone of our democracy.”