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Legatum Institute hosts its inaugural Financial Freedoms Summit in London on 14th March 2024

Protecting financial freedom and the future of ESG, in partnership with Heritage Foundation

On the day the Government published a Statutory Instrument designed to stop politicised de-banking and protect freedom of speech in financial services, Legatum Institute hosted its first Financial Freedoms Summit, in partnership with the Heritage Foundation. This marked the formal launch of the Institute’s financial freedoms project which is being spearheaded by Dr Samuel Bruce, the Institute’s Director of Philosophy and Education, and Fred de Fossard, the Director of Parliamentary Affairs.

Conservative MPs Sir Jacob Rees Mogg and Greg Smith have warned that the de-banking scandal that emerged with Nigel Farage last year is spreading around the whole country, and is affecting people and businesses up and down the land. Thanks to Nigel Farage’s tenacity and courage, he managed to expose the explicitly political nature of the way in which Coutts and NatWest removed his bank account. This transformed the discussion overnight.

Greg Smith said that when the Farage de-banking case emerged, people in his constituency “sat bolt upright on their sofas, at their desks, and realised the same thing had happened to them”, and they had lost their bank accounts for political reasons.

Greg Smith said that de-banking has affected groups like the WI, mum and toddler groups in small towns, and all sorts of rural and sporting businesses. He said that we must “protect the freedoms not just of the countryside, but of all of us. The WI branches who can’t get back accounts, the mum and toddler groups in my constituency. If we don’t step up to the mark we will see a very different United Kingdom in the future to the one we see today.”

In his address, Sir Jacob said that “banking has become a fundamental service and it is not possible to operate on cash alone today. How can you pay off your mortgage with cash?” He blamed regulators for “creating a risk averse regime” built on woke political ideas, which are forcing left wing values on private companies. This poses serious moral, philosophical and political questions around how human liberty can my protected in the move to an almost entirely digital economy.

During the summit, the Institute established an expert working group. Attended by Marcus Fysh MP, representatives from the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Adam Smith Institute, senior financial services and regulatory lawyers, as well as industry experts in the City and the defence sector, and others, this group worked over two seminars to examine the issues raised around de-banking and ESG in greater depth. 

The City Minister, Bim Afolami spoke at the Institute in an afternoon session, saying:

“I’m grateful to Legatum Institute for inviting me to talk at their inaugural financial freedoms summit and speak to their expert working group on the future of ESG and how to tackle de-banking. Ensuring our financial services promote innovation and protect liberty are essential to British prosperity, and it is essential that think tanks conduct work on this valuable subject.”

The working group concluded by supporting the Minister’s efforts to deliver a Statutory Instrument to guard against de-banking. This Instrument was a response to a parliamentary campaign led by Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, who laid an amendment to a Bill in order to safeguard financial freedom. The summit is the start of a long-term project, which will continue with future publications on ESG, how to prevent the British defence sector from being harmed by bad regulation, and how to ensure greater democratic accountability of our regulators.