UK expats count Brexit impact as banks shut accounts

LONDON: For Roger Morton and his wife living in France – and many other UK expats across the European Union – Brexit is causing the closure of their British banking services.

Morton, a 78-year-old retired photographer, laments a letter from Barclaycard, informing him that their credit account will no longer be accessible, as Britain prepares for the end of the Brexit transition period on Dec 31.

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"It was a surprise and something draconian," he told AFP of the letter, which he says comes on top of "an already stressful time" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Their current account with Barclays, where they have banked for about 40 years, is not affected.

One of the first direct consequences of Brexit, the move by UK lenders to shut expat services is said to affect tens of thousands of people across Europe.

From Jan 1, following the end of the transition period, UK banks will be deprived of their "passporting" rights that have allowed them to offer services across the European Union.

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To continue exercising these rights, they must have a legal entity in the countries of operation.

"This will obviously incur additional costs so banks will need to make decisions about which markets are likely to be cost-effective and profitable for them," noted Sarah Hall, professor of economic geography at the University of Nottingham, central England.

"This would mean that they choose to operate in some EU countries but not others," she told AFP.

For major UK bank Lloyds, the choice has been made. It is closing 13,000 accounts belonging to British expats spread across six EU countries – Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovakia.

ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS

Banks are advising customers on their next steps.

Coutts, the bank of British monarch Queen Elizabeth II, has set up a dedicated team after warning its expat clients in July.

Expat newspapers, such as The Connexion in France, informs readers of their options such as changing banks so for example they can continue to receive UK state pensions.

HSBC and Santander have decided against closing accounts.

"HSBC has a legal entity in France and is planning on using that to service UK expats in France," added profesRead More – Source