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

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 Germany.

How post-Brexit bank changes could affect British people in Germany
Photo: DPA

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.

READ ALSO: Tell us: Brits in Germany – have you been affected by the closure of a UK account?

Here we take a closer look at the situation for British people living in Germany, and other parts of the EU.

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.

READ ALSO: The complete guide to opening a bank account in Germany

As a country that has a large number of British people living here (estimates vary at around 117,000) there is a good chance that some banks will decided that it is worth their while to negotiate a licence with Germany.

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 our sister site The Local France said many Barclaycard customers in France reported being told that they will no longer be able to use their card.

We were also contacted by a Barclaycard customer in Germany who'd been told a similar thing.

Is it only if I use my German address?

Many British people living in Germany 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 German 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.

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 living in the EU probably shouldn't hold their breath for any help from that direction.

READ ALSO: OPINION: 'All certainly has vanished' for British citizens living in Europe 

Which banks?

Here's a look at what we know so far. We'll update this as we get more responses from banks.

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.

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.”

Barclaycard – some readers of The Local France and The Local Germany 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.

What's next?

Understandably, this has caused real worry among British people abroad. We'll report on this more as we get more information. But feel free to share your experiences or concerns by emailing us: [email protected] or filling out this form.

BREXIT

‘It’s their loss’: Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

The UK is missing out by barring highly skilled Italian graduates from accessing a new work visa, Italy's universities minister said on Wednesday.

'It's their loss': Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

Universities and Research Minister Cristina Messa said she was disappointed by the UK’s decision not to allow any graduates of Italian universities access to its ‘High Potential Individual’ work permit.

“They’re losing a big slice of good graduates, who would provide as many high skills…it’s their loss,” Messa said in an interview with news agency Ansa, adding that Italy would petition the UK government to alter its list to include Italian institutions.

Ranked: Italy’s best universities and how they compare worldwide

“It’s a system that Britain obviously as a sovereign state can choose to implement, but we as a government can ask (them) to revise the university rankings,” she said.

The High Potential Individual visa, which launches on May 30th, is designed to bring highly skilled workers from the world’s top universities to the UK in order to compensate for its Brexit-induced labour shortage.

Successful applicants do not require a job offer to be allowed into the country but can apply for one after arriving, meaning potential employers won’t have to pay sponsorship fees.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

The visa is valid for two years for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and three years for PhD holders, with the possibility of moving into “other long-term employment routes” that will allow the individual to remain in the country long-term.

READ ALSO: Eight things you should know if you’re planning to study in Italy

Italy isn’t the only European country to have been snubbed by the list, which features a total of 37 global universities for the 2021 graduation year (the scheme is open to students who have graduated in the past five years, with a different list for each graduation year since 2016).

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL Switzerland, Paris Sciences et Lettres, the University of Munich, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute are the sole European inclusions in the document, which mainly privileges US universities.

Produced by the UK’s Education Ministry, the list is reportedly based on three global rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Messa said she will request that the UK consider using ‘more up-to-date indicators’, without specifying which alternative system she had in mind.

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