How post-Brexit bank changes could affect British people in Spain

How post-Brexit bank changes could affect British people in Spain
Photo: AFP
As the end of the Brexit transition period looms, the UK has so far failed to negotiate access to the European passporting scheme for banks - here's what that means if you are British and live in Spain.

Over the weekend it was reported that, with just three months to go until the Brexit transition period ends, the UK has so far not managed to negotiate a continuation of EU banking rules – known as “passporting”.

This means that all UK banks will need to apply for new banking licences to provide certain services in each of the 27 different EU countries.

And some banks have apparently decided that this is not worth the hassle in certain EU countries and have begun writing to their British customers registered as living abroad to inform them that they will be closing their accounts or cancelling their credit cards.

Tell us: Is your UK bank closing or changing your account?

 

Here we take a closer look at the situation for British people living in Spain.

Is it all banks?

No, it's important to be clear that there is no blanket closure of accounts for all Brits living abroad, it depends on who you bank with and the type of account you have.

Essentially applying for new licences will create a lot more admin for banks.

Banks already have to do this for many non-EU countries so clearly it is possible to do. But there are reports that seem to suggest that some banks are deciding that it's not worth the hassle of doing this for all 27 countries in the EU separately, especially ones where they only have a few customers.

As a country that has a large number of British people living here (at least 360,000 are officially registered) there is a good chance that some banks will decided that it is worth their while to negotiate a licence with Spain.

Is it all account types?

No. Again, this depends on the type of account you have, with straightforward current/checking accounts less likely to be closed. It could also be the case that certain products become unavailable – for example many Barclaycard customers in Spain report being told that they will no longer be able to use their card.

Is it only if I use my Spanish address?

Many British people living abroad use a 'care of' address in the UK for their banking, for example the address of a family member who will forward on all correspondence they receive.

At this stage it seems that only people who have officially changed their address to one abroad are receiving letters from their bank.

Can I challenge my bank's decision?

Banks are free to decide what products they offer and to who, but their decisions can be challenged via the Financial Ombudsman Service – find out more about the procedure to file a complaint here.

The UK government told British newspaper The Times that “the provision of banking services is a commercial decision for firms based on a number of factors” so Brits in Spain probably shouldn't hold their breath for any help from that direction.

Which banks?

We have asked all the major names in UK banking what their policy is for customers in Spain, here are the responses we have received so far. We will update this page as soon as we receive more responses.

Santander – the Spanish banking giant said it was keeping the situation under constant review but told The Local: “We have no current plans to close any of our retail [personal banking] or corporate accounts.”

A Santander spokesperson said: “We have no current plans to close any of our retail or corporate accounts.”

Lloyds – the bank is understood to be closing business accounts – not personal accounts – of customers living in the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Portugal. However the bank said it had no current plans to discontinue any services for customers in Spain

“Lloyds Banking Group currently has no plans to discontinue any of the services we provide to our customers residing in Spain,” confirmed a spokesman in an email to The Local Spain. 

HSBC – A spokesman for HSBC confirmed by email to The Local Spain that current accounts for customers in Spain would not be affected, provided they were used at least once every 12 months.

“HSBC UK customers who reside in the EU will continue to have access to the banking and/or wealth management products and services that we currently provide to them,” said the statement.

“We are monitoring the situation closely, and will keep our customers informed in the event of changes that may impact how we are able to support them.”

And they advised any customers with questions, to check out the comprehensive Brexit FAQs for retail customers.

Barclaycard – Numerous readers  have been in touch to say that they had received letters from Barclaycard telling them that their account would be closed. Barclaycard is separate to Barclays bank and it is understood that Barclays current accounts are not affected, although the company has not commented on the record so far.

Anxiety inducing

However,  those who have been contacted have been left worried at being cut-off without access to their funds in the UK.

“Barclaycard have written to me to say my much beloved and needed card will be useless after October 16th, and final date of 20th,” reported one reader, Avril Cliff who lives in Carboneras.

“I have been searching for a bank here to give me a card, but for most banks I am too old..age 76, fit and able, but cut off is age 72. I have been with Barclaycard for over 40 years…. I do not know what to do as I need a credit card,” she said.

What do the British Embassy say about it? 

The British Embassy in Madrid publised a post on their Facebook page with this message:

“Whether UK banks can service EEA-based customers after the end of the UK Transition Period is a matter of local law and regulation in each country, and may be impacted by how firms are set up and what steps they have taken to continue to serve customers. We expect UK banks to comply with the law at all times,” read the post.
 
“If you are affected, your provider will contact you directly. As we are unable to provide any financial advice, you should contact your bank or an independent financial adviser if you have any questions. More information is available from the UK Financial Conduct Authority HERE

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Member comments

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  1. Standard Chartered Bank has just advised me that I need to close my account with them In Jersey!
    Very annoying.

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