Barclays bank to close accounts of Brits living in Germany

UK nationals living in Germany are receiving letters from their bank telling them that their accounts will be closed, in what appears to be a post-Brexit change.

Archive photos show customers using Barclay ATM machines in London.
Archive photos show customers using Barclay ATM machines in London. Photo: picture-alliance/ dpa | epa Andy Rain

Customers of Barclays Bank who are living in Germany have been receiving letters telling them that their UK accounts will be closed by the end of the year. There appears not to be an option to register for a different account.

Numerous readers of The Local Europe have contacted us to report receiving either letters or messages in their online banking telling them that their accounts would be closed because of their residency in Europe. 

A Barclays spokesperson told our sister site, The Local France: “As a ring fenced bank, our Barclays UK products are designed for customers within the UK.

“We will no longer be offering services to personal current account or savings customers (excluding ISAs) within the European Economic Area. We are contacting impacted customers to give them advance notice of this decision and outline the next steps they need to take.”  

Customers are being given six months to make alternative arrangements. The changes affect all personal current accounts or savings accounts, but do not affect ISAs, loans or mortgages.

During the Brexit transition period Barclays closed Barclaycard accounts of customers in Germany and other countries, but did not indicate any changes to standard bank accounts.

Around the same time several other British high street banks began closing accounts of British customers who live in the EU.

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

The majority of UK nationals who live in Germany maintain at least one UK bank account – in addition to a German account – sometimes just for savings but others use their accounts regularly to receive income such as pensions or income from rental property or – for remote workers – to receive income for work done in the UK.

Not having a UK bank account can make financial transactions in the UK more complicated or incur extra banking fees.

Since Brexit, the UK banking sector no longer has access to the ‘passporting’ system which allows banks to operate in multiple EU countries without having to apply for a separate banking licence for each country.

And it seems that many UK high street banks are deciding that the extra paperwork is not worth the hassle and are withdrawing completely from certain EU markets. 

When British banks began withdrawing services from customers in the EU back in 2020, a UK government spokesman 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.

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How will the 2024 budget affect foreigners in Germany?

Foreigners living in Germany will see some social services increasing in 2024 - but also grapple with budget cuts in core areas of their everyday lives. We lay out what to expect.

How will the 2024 budget affect foreigners in Germany?

Over the summer, Germany approved its much debated budget for 2024, which is to be officially adopted in November.

Some expenditures are increasing, namely those for defence. The German government has already set aside €51.8 billion in military spending for 2024, up from €50 billion this year. This puts it at the NATO-set target of two percent of each member state’s GDP.

The Bundesrepublik has for years been criticised that it did not meet this quota, but for the first time is set to – and even exceed it – as it increasingly strives to revamp its flailing Bundeswehr and lend more support to Ukraine.

But to budget for this increase – among others – without going into debt, it’s also cutting certain services which affect foreigners in Germany. Here’s what you need to know.

READ ALSO: German government approves belt tightening budget for 2024

Elterngeld is being halved

Many move to Germany for higher paying jobs which the country offers, particularly in STEM fields. But couples and individuals who have a taxable income of more than €150,000 per year will no longer qualify for Elterngeld (parental allowance) when they go on parental leave.

Previously the benefit was available to couples earning less than €300,000, or €250,000 for single parents. The move is expected to affect around 60,000 families in Germany.

READ ALSO: ‘A horrible idea’: How cuts to Elterngeld will affect families in Germany 

Less funding for trains

For years the German government has vowed to refurbish its rail services, which are notorious for their frequent delays and cancellations. It had even set aside €45 billion for Deutsche Bahn in a far-reaching climate package passed in March. Yet the government has now said it will currently only fund the rail service “as far as financially feasible”.

For environmentalists, this was a double whammy as the budget still includes tax breaks for motorists – something which the Green Party has pushed Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) to scratch out. 

But train enthusiasts looking to explore Germany and beyond can still look forward to speedy services coming out in the coming months, often in partnership with Austrian and French rail lines. And despite talk of raising the price, the Deutschlandticket is still set to be available for just €49 a month (at least for the moment).

The Inter City Express, ICE 4, of Deutsche Bahn, arrives at Interlaken Ost station in Bern.

The Inter City Express, ICE 4, of Deutsche Bahn, arrives at Interlaken Ost station in Bern. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/KEYSTONE | Peter Schneider

Reducing funds for digital services

Germany has become woefully well-known for its lack of digital services available, include many which would make the lives of foreigners much easier such as an online Anmeldung or renewing a visa digitally with the immigration offices.

This has steadily been improving, especially since Germany passed an Online Access Act (OZG), to significantly increase such services. But for this year the Interior Ministry has earmarked €3.3 million for the digitalisation of administration and administrative services next year – compared to €377 million this year.

It’s true that many German politicians – including Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) – are pressing for digitalisation in part to persuade more foreigners to come to, and feel comfortable in, Germany. But with the lack of funding, a digital revolution may take a bit longer than hoped. 

READ ALSO: Is Germany a failed state for digital public services?

Higher health care contributions

The one billion budget for long-term health insurance (Pflegeversicherung) is being axed, but the gap is being made up for by higher health care contribution rates which were adapted in July of this year. However some people, such as those with children, have seen their contribution rates decrease slightly. 

READ ALSO: German health insurance contributions ‘to increase in 2024’

More social benefits

The budget may seem to spell doom and gloom for many, but it’s also giving some social services a major boost. Germany’s new unemployment benefit, Bürgergeld, will go up by €23.8 billion in 2023 to €24.3 billion next year.

An additional €127 billion is being allocated to pension insurance (Rentenversicherung), which Germany sees as sorely needed as its population ages and the cost of living – with an inflation rate that sits over six percent – rises.

Foreigners who are accessing some social benefits or their pension could benefit from these changes.