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MEPs to US: Hands off our bank accounts

So long SWIFT

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The European Parliament has rejected a proposed interim agreement on SWIFT - under which the US gets access to European bank transactions.

The wholesale export of all our bank statements began after 2001 in the name of the war on terror.

The Parliament rejected the agreement by 378 votes to 196 with 31 abstentions. A proposal to delay the vote was rejected by 290 votes to 305 with 14 abstentions.

Rapporteur Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert from the Netherlands said the Council had not been tough enough on data protection and rules in the interim agreement on data protection were not proportionate to the security supposedly provided.

The new rules governing data exchange between the EU and the US were required because of changes to the infrastructure - data was previously stored on servers in the US, it will now be stored in Switzerland.

The European Commission is holding an open public consultation on the future of SWIFT.

Earlier this week the US was threatening to make data sharing agreements with individual countries if the EC failed to reach agreement. The difficulty for the US is that individual nations remain bound by EC data protection regulations.

The issue is also the first time the European Parliament has exercised its new powers over EC foreign policy.

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