Nigel Farage and Coutts: Every twist and turn in the dramatic banking story

Nigel Farage and Coutts: Every twist and turn in the dramatic banking story
Nigel Farage calls on entire NatWest board to resign after Alison Rose …

What do you get when you cross a controversial politician and an elitist bank?

Drama, is the answer, if Nigel Farage's interactions with Coutts are anything to go by.

The former Brexit Party politician initially clashed with the bank for high net-worth individuals when he claimed it shut his account because of his political views.

No stranger to ranting about how the 'establishment' has wronged him, you may have thought Farage's qualms may have gone unnoticed; consigned to his back catalogue of whinging.

But instead, this bugbear sparked a BBC apology, the resignation of a big banking boss, and the story keeps running and running.

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How did we get here? Here's everything you need to know about the story.

'Political persecution'

In June, Farage used his GB News show to moan his bank an account with a then unnamed bank had been closed despite his custom stretching back to the 1980s.

He said it was "serious political persecution" and claimed he was struggling to find an alternate bank to stash his money, leaving him considering leaving the UK altogether.

“I won’t really be able to exist or function in a modern 21st century Britain,” Farage said. “‘I’m beginning to think that perhaps life in the United Kingdom is now becoming completely unliveable because of the levels of prejudice against me.”

'Fell below the financial threshold'

Farage did not name the bank until the BBC’s business editor Simon Jack got involved and reported that it was Coutts – part of the NatWest Group. He also said the reason why Farage's bank account was closed was because he “fell below the financial threshold” required to have an account with them. The BBC cited a source familiar with the matter to back up the claim.

Coutts’ website states prospective customers must have “at least £1m in investments or borrowing” - such as a mortgage – or “£3m in savings” to set up an account with them.

High-profile journalists and public figures quickly mocked Farage and it seemed like that was the end of it - just another instance of the politician unjustifiably moaning about perceived injustice to get five minutes of fame. Typical grifter Farage, right?

Farage's receipts

But then something strange happened. Farage came back with receipts. Writing in the Telegraph, he said he had gained access to a report by the bank's wealth reputational risk committee via a subject access request which allegedly mentioned reputational concerns because Farage's views "do not align" with their values.

The Telegraph reports that minutes from of a meeting of Coutts' wealth reputational risk committee held on November 17 2022 read: "The committee did not think continuing to bank NF [Nigel Farage] was compatible with Coutts given his publicly-stated views that were at odds with our position as an inclusive organisation.

"This was not a political decision but one centred around inclusivity and purpose."

But Coutts stressed, "it is not Coutts' policy to close customer accounts solely on the basis of legally held political and personal views".

"Decisions to close an account are not taken lightly and involve a number of factors including commercial viability, reputational considerations, and legal and regulatory requirements," they said.

"We recognise the critical importance of access to banking. When it became clear that our client was unable to secure banking facilities elsewhere, and as he has confirmed publicly, he was offered alternative banking facilities with NatWest. That offer stands.

"We understand the public concern that the processes for ending a customer relationship, and how that is communicated, are not sufficiently transparent."

Politicians weigh in

MPs and government ministers then got involved, with Jacob Rees-Mogg even using PMQs to raise the issue with the prime minister, Rishi Sunak and Grant Shapps calling the issue "disgraceful" in an interview with Sky News.

The Treasury has called a meeting with bank bosses over account closures, following the row.

Apologies roll in

The BBC then apologised for their initial report, and Farage accepted their backtrack.

"It's not often that the BBC apologise. But for the BBC to apologise, I'm very, very pleased," Farage said.

The boss of NatWest Group, Dame Alison Rose, apologised on to Farage for what she called the "deeply inappropriate" comments made in the document.

She also said that she was commissioning a full review of Coutts' processes on bank account closures.

Bank boss resigns

Then, a week later, she resigned. She admitted she was the source for the story and apologised.

She said: “Put simply, I was wrong to respond to any question raised by the BBC about this case. I want to extend my sincere apologies to Mr Farage for the personal hurt this has caused him and I have written to him today.”

Whether this puts an end to the matter or not, time will only tell.

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