Building society 'closed account after customer questioned Pride flags' amid Farage furore


A building society has said that it closes customers’ accounts if they engage in “rude” or “discriminatory” behaviour amid claims it closed the account of a client who questioned the use of Pride flags on its website.

And another online bank allegedly closed the account of a gender-critical journalist who stated that 'Women don't have penises'. First Direct, a telephone and internet based retail bank division of HSBC, would not comment on the case - but said "decisions to end a customer relationship" are "absolutely not based on individual beliefs".

It comes after Nigel Farage claimed his bank accounts have been closed. The prominent Leave campaigner, suggested this could be due to “prejudice” because the “corporate world” has not forgiven him for Brexit.

Now, Yorkshire Building Society has allegedly closed the account of a customer after they asked why its website was festooned with Pride flags. The Building Society declined to comment on the claim, but denied that it closed customers' accounts "based on different opinions regarding beliefs".

Journalist and former Conservative MP Toby Young, from the Free Speech Union, made the claim about Yorkshire Building Society on GB News. He said the building society invited feedback and the customer asked why it was "taking sides" on "contentious" issues.

Young described banks closing accounts as "chilling", "sinister" and "like something from communist China". However, a spokesperson for Yorkshire Building Society said: "We do not close savings accounts based on different opinions regarding beliefs.

"We would only make the difficult decision to close a savings account if a customer is rude, abusive, violent or discriminates in any way, based on the specific facts and behaviour in each case."

Meanwhile, journalist Stuart Campbell, who runs the pro-Scottish independence blog Wings over Scotland, suggested his accounts with First Direct were closed because of his views on gender and sex.

In a foul-mouthed rant on Twitter, @WingsScotland asked: "Was it to do with Wings' very public stance on gender, after the fiasco of PayPal pulling their services from the Free Speech Union and other similar incidents from woke financial service providers? Who knows? But it stinks."

The @WingsScotland tweet threat said: "I've banked with them (First Direct) for 25+ years, but last week I was in Sainsbury's buying some milk... and my card got declined. I rang them up, and after over an hour on hold, they told me all my accounts had been cancelled.

"It obviously came as something of a shock... so I asked why on Earth such a thing would have happened, and they point-blank refused to give any reason. hey claimed to have sent me a letter - normal post, not Recorded Delivery - two months previously (which I'd never seen), and also an email which I didn't get either (I checked my spam filters, nothing) and which they acknowledged was marked on their system as unread."

"It's staggering to me that in a world increasingly shunning the use of cash, a bank can leave a person completely financially stranded like this, give no reason for it, and not even be legally obliged to make sure they know it's happening."

A First Direct spokesperson told the MailOnline they would not comment on individual cases. However, they said: "In general terms, decisions to end a customer relationship are not taken lightly, but are absolutely not based on individual beliefs."

Farage this week claimed his bank accounts have been closed, adding that life in the UK is becoming “completely unlivable”. The Former Brexit Party leader said on Twitter that this amounted to “serious political persecution”, suggesting the decision was made due to his involvement in the 2016 European Union referendum.

He said in a video: “I got a phone call a couple of months ago to say ‘we are closing your accounts’, I asked ‘why’, no reason was given. I was told a letter would come which will explain everything, the letter came through and simply said ‘we are closing your accounts, we want to finish it all by a date’, which is around about now.

“I didn’t quite know what to make of it, I complained, I emailed the chairman, a lackey phoned me to say that it was a commercial decision, which I have to say, I don’t believe for a single moment.

“So I thought, well there we are, I’ll have to go and find a different bank, I’ve been to seven banks, asked them all ‘could I have a personal and a business account?’, and the answer has been no in every single case.

“There is nothing irregular or unusual about what I do, the payments that go in and come out every month are pretty much the same, I maintain in my business account quite a big positive cash balance, which I guess with interest rates where they are is pretty good for the bank too.”

Mr Farage, a prominent Leave campaigner, suggested this could be due to “prejudice” because the “corporate world” has probably not forgiven him for Brexit.

The former Ukip leader went on: “Without a bank account you effectively become a non-person, you don’t actually exist, it’s like the worst regimes of the mid 20th century, be they in Russia or Germany. You literally become a non-person and you don’t anymore actually have a right to be entitled to a bank account.

“Now there is a possibility for a fintech company that I could find some means of receiving and paying money, which could be a little bit of a lifeline, but it’s not a bank account, because I won’t be able to earn any interest on positive cash balances. I won’t be able to borrow money – if I need to at any point- or take out a mortgage should I so desire, that will be completely denied to me, I won’t be to have a debit card linked directly to my account.

“I won’t really be able to exist and function in a modern 21st century Britain.”

He added: “I’m beginning to think that perhaps life in the United Kingdom is now becoming completely unlivable because of the levels of prejudice against me.”

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