FIGAROVOX / TRIBUNE – British bank Coutts has closed the accounts of Brexit party founder Nigel Farage over a “values” discrepancy. For former diplomat François-Joseph Chechen, this symbolic closure threatens political pluralism in British democracy.
François-Joseph Chechen is a former diplomat and consultant on geopolitics and European affairs at the advisory firm Flint Global.
Nigel Farage’s bank accounts with Britain’s Coutts Bank were closed a few months ago. The esteemed financial institution – which is also the royal family’s bank – said it had closed Mr Farage’s accounts because his political views were so. “contradicts the values the Bank stands for”.
The list of charges against him by the bank is eloquent: the bank’s internal report highlights his role in the campaign for the Brexit referendum in 2016, his statements about a vaccine against Covid-19 or his objections to climate and environment policies. According to the report, these situations endanger the bank’s reputation, which justifies closing the accounts of the person concerned.
In other words, Nigel Farage was fired from Coutts Bank for wrongdoing of opinion. This decision reveals a widespread ideological trend in the private sector, especially in the financial sector, which is to attack those who dare to challenge the prevailing thought. The fact that the progressive “wake up” ideology is increasingly present in some companies is not surprising, but this case shows that a new step has been taken.
Coates’ position shows that a bank can put together a dossier on the political views of one of its customers, and on that basis decide whether the latter is worth having an account with. Are there any other records made on clients of Coutts Bank? How many accounts have been closed based on this? Is this approach common to other banks in the UK and Europe? Are there today political criteria that must be met in order to obtain a bank account? Rassemblement National’s past difficulties obtaining banking services in France suggests that this is the case. Closing the PayPal accounts of organizations that criticize successive shutdowns during the pandemic follows the same logic.
By closing Nigel Farage’s accounts, this also represents the entire portion of the British electorate that Coutts Bank has decided to exclude.
Francois Joseph Chechen
The question this case raises is not Nigel Farage’s opinion. It can be completely criticized and is subject to criticism in many ways. It is first and foremost a matter of principle: no one should be denied access to banking services because of their political views. A private bank can of course choose the individuals it decides to do business with – but there must be limits, in the same way that it is illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent property to an individual on the basis of their skin color or nationality.
The position of Coutts Bank also shows the fever of part of the British political and financial elite in the face of one of the most influential politicians on the political scene in recent decades. Since the 1990s, Nigel Farage has won most of his battles: the UK’s refusal to enter the eurozone, the Brexit referendum and the question of immigration. In the 2019 European elections – the last in which the UK participated before it actually left the EU – more than 5 million Britons voted for its political party’s lists. By closing Nigel Farage’s accounts, this also represents the entire portion of the British electorate that Coutts Bank has decided to exclude.
Today, Nigel Farage has returned to the issue of immigration, benefiting from the failures of successive conservative governments in this field, and the loss of control over immigration policy that reveals it. He could once again exert his influence on the political debate, taking advantage of the political void left by the departure of Boris Johnson – the popular figure and the line thinking with a part of the popular electorate in the now orphaned “marginal” England. None of the current political leaders, whether from the Conservative Party or the Labor Party, is in a position to speak to these constituents. Given his political hunting record, it is not surprising that part of the elite sought to rein in Nigel Farage’s ambitions.
In addition to the British political situation and the specific case of Nigel Farage, this case confirms that discrimination on political grounds does indeed exist within the private sector. They could be more pervasive than we think, and call into question the political pluralism of our democratic societies.
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