Now That He Has the Power to Make His Crypto Dreams Come True, Will He?

As finance minister earlier this year he backed measures for regulating stablecoins and boldly declared he would turn the U.K. into an international hub for crypto. Now he’s prime minister and an FTX-scarred industry is watching. That’s why Rishi Sunak is one of CoinDesk’s Most Influential 2022.

AccessTimeIconDec 5, 2022 at 1:28 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 28, 2023 at 2:28 p.m. UTC

Rishi Sunak clearly stood out as the crypto-crowd favorite among this year’s numerous U.K. prime minister hopefuls. It might have a lot to do with the fact that, just before he resigned as Boris Johnson’s finance minister in July, Sunak had declared his intention to turn the country into a global hub for crypto – and laid out some key initiatives in pursuit of that goal.

The U.K. Treasury, with Sunak at the helm, ushered in Britain’s post-Brexit financial strategy earlier this year, which includes measures to bring crypto stabilized against sovereign currencies (collectively known as stablecoins) into the scope of local payments regulations. The Financial Services and Markets bill is now moving through Parliament, and was recently injected with rules to regulate crypto broadly as financial instruments. The proposed regulations could solidify the U.K.'s crypto agenda in the wake of the European Union’s own sweeping Markets in Crypto Assets (MiCA) framework targeting digital assets, service providers and stablecoin issuers.

Under his leadership, the Treasury set in motion a public consultation on crypto taxes. He also ordered the country’s coin maker, the Royal Mint, to issue a collection of non-fungible tokens (NFT), although nothing has materialized from the initiative yet.

Sunak’s sudden exit from government back in July left the local crypto lobby mourning the loss of a politician they had spent a great deal of time communicating with on matters of the industry. But Ian Taylor, head of lobby group CryptoUK, told CoinDesk at the time that Sunak’s resignation only meant he will be back in some other form.

In a turn of events not even Taylor could have predicted – and having little to do with crypto – Sunak is now the head of the U.K.’s government.

As the new prime minister, Sunak certainly has bigger fish to fry, having inherited an economy shaken down by the COVID-19 pandemic, a war and the rapid unraveling of his predecessor Liz Truss’ ill-conceived fiscal plan.

And then, just one week after accepting his official appointment from King Charles III, the crypto juggernaut FTX collapsed, pulling down with it an already battered crypto market. When asked if the debacle has swayed the Conservative government’s plans for a crypto hub, Sunak’s finance minister, Jeremy Hunt, cautiously said the government wants London and the U.K. to be a “global hub for innovation in financial services.”

“But we want to do so in a way that makes sure that we don’t do things that undermine financial stability, and of course we’ll work with regulators to make sure we get that balance right … including all cryptocurrencies,” Hunt said.

Sunak, too, will eventually have to address his plans for crypto, and the industry is sure to be paying close attention.


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Sandali Handagama

Sandali Handagama is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for policy and regulations, EMEA. She does not own any crypto.