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.
Here we take a closer look at the situation for British people living in France.
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 it seems 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 (estimates vary from 150,000 to 300,000) there is a good chance that banks will decided that it is worth their while to obtain a licence for France.
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 France report being told that they will no longer be able to use their credit card.
Is it only if I use my French address?
Many British people living in France 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 a French one 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.
Yarp I got a letter from Barclaycard after 30 odd years. Got other a/c's with UK address but not the point. Will file complaint with Ombudsman and I won't be the only one.
— Our Normandy Life (@ournormandylife) September 21, 2020
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 France probably shouldn't hold their breath for any help from that direction.
We have asked all the major names in UK banking what their policy is for customers in France, 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.”
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 France.
A spokesman said: “We have written to a small number of customers living in affected EU countries to let them know that due to the UK’s exit from the EU, regrettably we will no longer be able to provide them with some UK-based banking services. We want to keep customers informed and offer advice on next steps.”
HSBC – A spokesman for HSBC confirmed on Twitter that current accounts for customers in France would not be affected, provided they were used at least once every 12 months.
Barclaycard – numerous readers of The Local France 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.
Nationwide – a spokesman said no decisions had yet been taken on accounts held by UK nationals living in the EU. They told The Local: “We are closely monitoring all developments regarding Brexit and are prepared to deal with any outcome.
“Part of this preparedness includes reviewing the ongoing availability of products and services for those members who are resident in the European Union and the European Economic Area.
“Because the outcome of Brexit is not yet clear and the position continues to evolve, there is currently no certainty as to any actions we will be required to take. Regrettably we cannot provide any further detail on the impact on specific products and transactions at this point. However, we will communicate with members as soon as possible about any necessary changes that impact them.”