Tony Diver, The Telegraph, June 29, 2023
Nigel Farage has said he may be forced to leave Britain after his bank closed his accounts and others refused his custom.
The former UKIP leader said his personal and business accounts with a major retail bank have been closed because of a “commercial decision” and other high street firms have refused to allow him to transfer his funds to them.
Mr Farage told The Telegraph he may have been the victim of “blatant corporate prejudice” because of his campaigning for Brexit, or fallen foul of “politically exposed person” rules designed to lower banks’ exposure to bribery and money-laundering.
Asked what he plans to do in response to his accounts being closed and debit cards rendered defunct, he said: “Leave the country? I haven’t decided. I’ve really got to think about this.”
The decision comes after other Right-wing figures including Richard Tice, the leader of Reform UK, and Toby Young, who established the Free Speech Union, said their accounts had been closed or restricted.
In a video posted to his Twitter account on Thursday, Mr Farage admitted his bank gave him two months notice that it was closing his accounts. He has refused to name the bank and said he was speaking to lawyers in the hope they can convince it to restore his access.
A bank can close a customer’s account at any time and for various reasons, sometimes without notice.
Under the payment accounts regulations, banks can close an account if a person has knowingly used, or attempted to use the account for illegal purposes. The bank can also take action if incorrect information was given when applying for the account or the account holder is no longer legally a resident of the UK.
There is also increased scrutiny from banks regarding politically exposed people, individuals who are more susceptible to being involved in bribery or corruption because of their profession or position.
Under money-laundering regulations, banks are required to apply enhanced due diligence to politically exposed individuals to ensure that they are not using their institution for money-laundering or accepting cash from illegal sources.
In 2018, the Financial Conduct Authority, the City watchdog, said it was aware that “some banks no longer offer services to categories of customers they deem to be at high risk of money-laundering”.
Mr Farage said: “I got a phone call a couple of months ago to say ‘we are closing your accounts’. I asked why – no reason was given. I was told a letter would come, which will explain everything. The letter came through and simply said ‘we are closing your accounts, we want to finish it all by a date’, which is around about now.
“I didn’t quite know what to make of it. I complained, I emailed the chairman, a lackey phoned me to say that it was a commercial decision, which I have to say I don’t believe for a single moment.
“So I thought, well there we are, I’ll have to go and find a different bank, I’ve been to seven banks, asked them all ‘could I have a personal and a business account?’, and the answer has been no in every single case.
“There is nothing irregular or unusual about what I do. The payments that go in and come out every month are pretty much the same, I maintain in my business account quite a big positive cash balance, which I guess with interest rates where they are is pretty good for the bank too.”
He added: “I’m beginning to think that perhaps life in the United Kingdom is now becoming completely unlivable because of the levels of prejudice against me.”