Farage receives apology from Coutts for ‘deeply inappropriate’ comments after bank account row

Politics

The chief executive of the banking group that owns Coutts has apologised to Nigel Farage after his account was closed.

The former UKIP and Brexit Party leader claimed the elite bank took the action because his views did not align with the firm’s “values”.

But reports in the BBC and Financial Times suggested it was down to his finances not reaching the companies threshold.

Earlier this week, Mr Farage claimed to have a 40-page document that proved Coutts “exited” him because he was regarded as “xenophobic and racist” and a former “fascist”.

But Coutts hit back, saying it did not close accounts “solely on the basis of legally held political and personal views”.

Now, after weeks of the row playing out in public, the chief executive of the Natwest Group, Alison Rose, has apologised for “deeply inappropriate comments” made about him in documents prepared for the company’s wealth committee.

She insisted the remarks did “not reflect the view of the bank”, adding: “I believe very strongly that freedom of expression and access to banking are fundamental to our society and it is absolutely not our policy to exit a customer on the basis of legally held political and personal views.”

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The apology letter written to Nigel Farage
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The apology letter written to Nigel Farage

The apology came as the Treasury announced new stricter measures on banks closing accounts to protect freedom of expression.

The government said the organisations will now have to inform customers of the reasons why they are closing accounts, and extend the notice period from 30 days to 90 – giving customers more time to challenge the decision or find a new bank.

Economic secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Griffith, said: “Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our democracy, and it must be respected by all institutions.

“Banks occupy a privileged place in society, and it is right that we fairly balance the rights of banks to act in their commercial interest, with the right for everyone to express themselves freely.”

In her letter, Ms Rose said she “fully understands” both Mr Farage’s and the public’s concerns that the processes for bank account closures were not “sufficiently transparent”, adding: “Customers have a right to expect their bank to make consistent decisions against publicly available criteria and those decisions should be communicated clearly and openly
with them, within the constraints imposed by the low.”

She agreed that “sector wide change” was needed but, following the incident with the political commentator and Coutts, she would now commission a full review of the bank’s processes “to ensure we provide better, clearer and more consistent experience for customers in the future”.

The bank has now offered “alternative banking arrangements” at NatWest

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