If you have followed this blog for some time, none of this should be a surprise. I first wrote here on this blog about the future ending of EU passporting of UK bank accounts two years ago. It is one of the reasons we were fighting Brexit. The only reply from the stupid people who voted for it – while themselves living on the Spanish costas! – was “fake news!” or “project fear!” as The Sun, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail told them. In one case, the idea was expressed more strongly by one of the gentle English folk of Finestrat, “Why don’t you shut your f***ing mouth or I’ll put my fist in it.”
Well I stopped talking to those sorts of people a long time ago and now all we have left is to deal with the consequences of their mad ignorant project: and the news for all British residents who still keep a UK bank account is quite simple. They have started closing them down. You must be proactive immediately and find out what you should do. Some customers have already received a cheque in the post with their bank balance and the news that their account has been closed already.
On BBC Radio 4 Money Box last night the basic details were set out. Then part way through today, The Guardian published an article with more details.
To summarise both sets of information:
Due to lack of progress with UK/EU talks on a deal, the banks still do not know whether finacial passporting will continue beyond 31 December 2020. This means the ability of banks based in the UK to trade and serve customers in EU countries when they are no longer under the same regulation as during membership of the EU. Consequently, on an individual bank basis they have already started to act. This is mainly affecting customers in smaller EU countries with fewer UK residents, where it is not worthwhile for the UK banks to bother setting up a bilateral arrangement with that country to continue serving UK residents.
The situation in Spain – with the major percentage of the UK community that is resident in the EU may turn out to be an exception due to the large number of people in Spain with UK accounts, but even that will still be on an individual bank basis, not a general rule for all banks. But you cannot bank on it (pardon the pun!) The watchword now is be proactive. That was the advice on the Money Programme and the Guardian says: “Unless a trade deal is agreed with the EU, UK financial institutions will have to abide by often arcane rules which vary from country to country and depend on what services are being offered by what kind of bank.”
In my case, the UK bank account I still hold is for limited use as the account receiving my monthly Teacher’s Pension. I knew this change was coming down the line so I contacted them six months ago and told them I was returning to the UK (I am not) and today I am registering my account at my daughter’s address. The online banking pages allow a change of address but they have already altered the page, so you cannot change the country name! (You can only change the street and town etc.) In other words they have put controls in place and it is not straightforward in the case of my bank to simply do a change of country. I am awaiting the outcome of an enquiry.
A few further points:
1. The British Embassy in Madrid normally flags up such changes so that UK residents in Spain do not get caught out. They must have been aware of this but I have received no notice about any changes to their Brexit advice pages, which always come through automatically in my email. News about this has been generated by customers who have already had their accounts closed. I think it is disgraceful that the banks have acted without telling the Foreign Office to let UK residents know this was coming in September 2020.
2. Do not seek advice from Citizens Advice Spain. They are a sham organisation and nothing to do with the brand of CAB in the UK: I have already mentioned this on the blog regarding other issues and this was direct information I received from CAB in the UK after making a complaint about the imposters in Spain who exist to promote money-making insurance and investment companies, as we found out when they did local “advice” sessions about Brexit.
3. The best approach is to retain your UK account by saying you are returning to the UK and asking your bank about the procedure for an address change. Use a UK address or a relative’s address. Do not say you are giving them a UK address but you intend remaining in Spain, as you may find they have been told not to allow you to do that, under financial passporting rules.
Anyone who has additional information or experiences to share, please tell me in a comment here. This will be a live issue and this blogpost will be updated.
Updated 20.30 Monday
I have spent two hours on useless Barclays online banking trying to get my address changed without success so far. All has to be done through idiots in an Indian call centre. The last idiot addressed me as “dearest mister Gareth” and hoped I was having a lovely day at the cut-&-pasted intro to each one of his seven messages and then utterly failed to do the simple task of changing my address details. Have just sent in a strong complaint to Barclays. A reply came back from the same call centre signed by the same Mr Sharma who had been messing up my change of address! Aaaaaargh! Does nothing work in UK now? What a bunch of utter bankers!
Calm, calm, dearest Peasant. Don’t forget it’s a hermitage…
Updated 11.00 Tuesday
I have finally got my address changed with Barclays after they made three more errors this morning. The whole process has taken 27 messages to and fro on the BARCLAYS online messaging! I had just written a WhatsApp to a friend saying, “Why doesn’t anything work any longer?” when I went to the BARCLAYS online web page one last time, in order to copy the mad message sequence and make a strong complaint to Barclays headquarters about their amateur call centre in India. In my last message to the Indian call centre people, I had told them I was going to make a strong complaint to Barclays headquarters about the call centre’s ‘communications’.
They have totally wiped all my message record, leaving no evidence of the exchange! By doing that they also wiped out bank messages going back eighteen months, some of them with useful information about my account. Whether in politics or business, the ordinary voter or customer is now simply a victim of a broken system. We don’t exist.
Update 17.00 Tuesday: HSBC
The situation with HSBC (mentioned above) appears to be an exception, probably because it is an international bank not a British bank, and an EU address seems to be OK with that particular bank. One HSBC customer resident here in Costa Blanca has contacted a bank branch in the UK and will give me the result of that enquiry, which will be appended here when I have it.
23 September. Update on HSBC:
A lot of false information about HSBC accounts seems to have been generated by social media. HSBC has made no decision on this as yet. Customers should await news on that bank’s position. (Barclays and Lloyds have said they require a UK address for EU resident British customers, but HSBC has not made any statement yet.)
SOURCE: This information comes from a direct enquiry to a UK branch holding an account owned by a British resident in Spain.
23 September 21.00: British Embassy notice
Three days after the news bergan to appear in the >British press about UK banks closing accounts of UK citizens in EU, the Foreign Office wakes up! Those of us on the regular mailiong list of the British Embassy in Madrid just received this notice, several days too late for it to be of any use whatsoever! Thanks guys… USELESS !!!
“Banking and financial services: Most people living in Europe should not see any change to their banking when the transition period ends (31 December 2020). Whether UK banks can service customers living in an EEA country is a matter of local law and regulation. Also banks are set up differently, and may have taken different actions to continue to serve their customers.
“Your bank or finance provider should contact you if they need to make any changes to your product or the way they provide it. If you have any concerns about whether you might be affected, contact your provider or seek independent financial advice.”
This advice is also wrong: with some banks, customers’ accounts have already been closed and a cheque for the balance put in the post. I have written a complaint to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. What is the point of having an embassy that tells you the last plane home left three days ago?
I don’t much care, as I’m just waiting for my Spanish citizenship – having given up on UK completely – but don’t these pèople have any obligation to UK citizens any longer? Even I, in my small way, feel it a necessary obligation to help inform my friends about these changes. What utter incompetence!