More Britons Raise The Alarm Over Financial Deplatforming

The problem is more widespread than initially thought.

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British banks have been accused of shutting out customers due to their political and social opinions. The issue hit the spotlight after prominent pro-Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage claimed that his bank plans to close his personal and business accounts. Farage did not disclose the bank’s name but it is believed to be Coutts, a venerable institution over three centuries old and part of the NatWest Group, which is almost 39% owned by the British taxpayer.

Notably, First Direct, another bank, has also been accused of closing the account of journalist Stuart Campbell, founder of the pro-Scottish independence blog Wings over Scotland. Campbell said that his account was terminated because of his opinions on gender and sex, particularly his statement that “Women don’t have penises.” First Direct stated that decisions to end customer relationships are not based on individual beliefs.

Farage made a comparison between the UK and “communist China,” expressing outrage at the banks’ actions and mentioning that his family members’ accounts were also shut. He intimated that the banking industry has become politicized and voiced concerns that anyone could have their accounts closed due to a social media post or opinion disliked by banks. “We are going down a road where anybody in Britain could say something on Facebook or Twitter that a bank doesn’t like and lose their accounts,” Farage told MailOnline.

Journalist Toby Young, another figure in the media landscape, reported that a customer claimed the Yorkshire Building Society planned to close his account after questioning why the bank’s branches were decorated with Pride flags. In addition, PayPal pulled services from Toby Young’s ventures, including The Free Speech Union, though later reinstated Young’s account after initially barring him.

Last year, British actor Laurence Fox’s political party Reclaim was denied a bank account, with Fox indicating that even with compliance, it was nearly impossible to establish an account.

Farage, who has been a customer with his bank for more than four decades, said that he was warned two months ago that his accounts would be closed. While the bank termed it a “commercial decision,” Farage alleged it to be political persecution. He stated that after the public outcry, the bank offered to let him keep his personal account but not his business account. Farage is considering legal action and also contemplating banking abroad, possibly in Switzerland.

Moreover, Farage is advocating for a change in legislation to make access to a bank account a legal right, similar to some other countries, as he mentioned that about 1.3 million people in the UK do not have one.

The unfolding drama has sparked fervent discussions and debates on the role of banks and the intersection of finance and politics. While the banks have largely stayed silent or cited general policies, critics argue that financial institutions may be overstepping by allegedly involving themselves in political and social issues.

Among those who have come forward is Rev Richard Fothergill, who believes that his account with Yorkshire Building Society (YBS) was closed due to his criticism of the company’s promotion of LGBT rights.

A retired Anglican vicar from Windermere, Cumbria, Rev Fothergill wrote to YBS, expressing his concerns about what he perceived as the promotion of gender ideology during Pride Month.

The Times reports that within four days of sending his letter, he was informed that his account would be closed. Fothergill, founder of the Filling Station evangelical network online, expressed dismay over YBS’s response. “I wasn’t even aware that our relationship had a problem. They are a financial house – they are not there to do social engineering. I think they should concentrate their efforts on managing money, instead of promoting LGBT ideology,” he asserted.

YBS, in a response to Fothergill’s allegations, stated that they adopt a “zero tolerance approach to discrimination” and argued that their relationship with the vicar had “irrevocably broken down.”

The Building Society denied closing accounts based on different opinions or beliefs.

While the banks have maintained that account closures are based on individual customer behavior and not beliefs, these incidents have cast a shadow over the principle of free speech in the United Kingdom.

Moreover, Nigel Farage’s push for legislative change, to make access to a bank account a legal right, highlights the dire consequences faced by those whose accounts have been terminated. With banking services being essential in today’s society, the loss of an account renders individuals virtually non-existent in the modern economy.

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