RBS is at war with Brussels over a billion pound bank sell-off

The Royal Bank of Scotland’s troubled Williams & Glyn (W&G) sell-off has hit fresh problems after disagreements arose with the European Union over a key new trustee appointment.

RBS must rebrand 314 of its branches as W&G and sell them off by 2017, as part of EU instructions following its £45 billion ($55 billion) taxpayer rescue in 2008.

The business includes 1.8 million personal banking customers and 250,000 small business accounts, all in the UK.

Reports emerged over the weekend that the European Commission could take control of the sale, as RBS looks to be dragging its feet. Financial News reported that Brussels could appoint a trustee from the Commission as soon as January to oversee the process.

According to the Telegraph, however, RBS disputes that timeframe and believes that it only has to clarify its plans for the sell-off by January, ahead of completing the deal by the end of 2017.

The bank believes that the Commission only gains the power to appoint one of its own members once the bank has missed that December deadline. RBS chief executive Ross McEwan did say earlier this year that the bank would be in “uncharted territory” if it fails to sell off the branches by the end of 2016, and that now looks highly likely.

RBS has not immediately responded with a request for comment at the time of publication.

The W&G sell-off has been deeply complicated, especially since Santander pulled out of the £1.9 billion deal last month following a price dispute.

The bank also spent £1.5 billion trying to float the new business on the stock market, only to stun investors in September when it decided to backtrack on the plan.

Shares in RBS have taken a hit this morning, and are down 1.76% from the open as of 9.51 a.m. B.S.T. Here is how it looks:

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