Nigel Farage demands more than apology from NatWest chief in Coutts bank row

The boss of Coutts' parent company has tried to get on top of the recent crisis involving Nigel Farage, ITV News' Carl Dinnen reports

Nigel Farage has demanded more than an apology from the NatWest Group's CEO after she apologised to the former Ukip leader after his private Coutts account was shut down.

Dame Alison Rose had told Mr Farage on Thursday "it is absolutely not our policy to exit a customer on the basis of legally held political and personal views" after his Natwest-owned Coutts account was shut down, sparking outrage among senior Tories.

It has even prompted stricter rules applied to banks over closing customer accounts in a bid to protect freedom of expression, the Treasury has announced.

Banking firms will be forced to explain and delay any decision to close an account from one month to three months, under new rules announced by the chancellor on Thursday.

But Mr Farage has now claimed the apology is only "a start”, as he pledged to keep on campaigning amid a political furore over the closure of bank accounts and freedom of speech.

Nigel Farage’s claim to have been ‘debanked’ for political reasons has prompted a review of how banks treat politicians Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

He suggested the bank boss, who is also a member of the Prime Minister’s new Business Council, was forced into an apology by the Treasury.

“In life it is always good to get an apology, so thank you Dame Alison for apologising," he said while opening his show on GB News Thursday night.

"What I’ve actually been told quietly, privately, is that you were forced into doing this by the Treasury.

“But at least you’ve done it, I suppose. But the whole letter smacks of ‘not me, guv, I mean I’m just the chief executive, I mean, don’t blame me for what the banks under my direct control are doing’”.

He said that there were thousands in the same position as him, as he vowed to battle on.

“I’m afraid I can’t just walk away from this. I’ve started this, and I’ve got to continue. So thank you for the apology. It’s a start, but it’s no more than that.”

Mr Farage rejected Dame Allison Rose's apology on GB News Thursday night. Credit: PA

In a letter addressed to Mr Farage on Thursday, Dame Alison wrote: "I believe very strongly that freedom fo express and access to banking are fundamental to our society".

"I would also like to personally reiterate our offer to you of alternative banking arrangements at NatWest.

"I fully understand yours and the public's concern that the processes for bank account closure are not sufficiently transparent."

She added that there will be a full review, reporting to her, into the Coutts processes for "how these decisions are made and communicated, to ensure we provide better, clearer, and more consistent experience for customers in the future."

Various senior Tories made their opinions known on the matter.

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.

'However much we may find them tiresome, members of the opposition deserve bank accounts', says Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg in the House of Commons

"These changes will boost the rights of customers, providing real transparency, time to appeal and making it a much fairer playing field."

According to several media reports, Coutts documents claimed Mr Farage's account was closed down because his views "did not align with" theirs.

But Coutts, and its owner Natwest, came under increasing pressure to explain the decision.

In the House of Commons on Wednesday, Treasury minister Baroness Penn said: "I think the point that we can all agree on is that the right to lawful freedom of speech is fundamental.

"And where that has seemed to be brought into question through the provision of services, we have cause to worry."

The concerns were echoed by Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, who stood up during Prime Minister's Questions and asked Mr Sunak if he shared his "unease" at the closure of Mr Farage's account.

"However much we may find them tiresome, members of the opposition deserve bank accounts," Sir Jacob said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the decision "completely undermines the trust we have in our banking and financial systems" and former Brexit secretary David Davis said it amounted to "thinly veiled political discrimination" and called it a "vindictive, irresponsible and undemocratic action".

The plans drawn up by government were welcomed by Mr Farage, who said MPs are "beginning to realise that this system is coming for them as well".

"I think this is one of the swiftest interventions I've seen by Government for many, many years," he told the PA news agency.

"And I think that's because this problem of the way banks have been behaving has been building up for years and years and years.

"Every MP will know of constituents, small businessmen and women who've literally been shut down by their banks with no reason given whatsoever.

"I also think that because of the politically exposed persons (PEPs) rule, I think they're beginning to realise that this system is coming for them as well."

Mr Farage said there is "a real sense of anger" among the public who bailed out the major banks during the 2008 financial crisis that they "can now treat us with contempt".

High net-worth bank Coutts, owned by NatWest Group, will face a probe into how it handled the Nigel Farage account closure Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

The politician-turned-broadcaster revealed several weeks ago that the prestigious private bank had shut his accounts with no explanation.

This week he said he obtained a 40-page dossier from Coutts, using a subject access request, to gain information about the decision.

The BBC, citing "people familiar with Coutts's move", had previously suggested the Brexit campaigner fell below the financial threshold needed to hold an account with the bank.

But the Telegraph have challenged the BBC's reporting, prompting Mr Farage to publicly call for the BBC to issue a correction.

Mr Farage has insisted the Coutts documents provided "absolute proof" that his accounts were not closed for commercial reasons.

Asked for comment, the BBC pointed to its own reporting of the story.

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