Crypto Remains a Priority for UK Under New Leader, Drawing Industry Excitement

Industry advocates in the country worried previous finance minister Rishi Sunak's crypto plans wouldn't pan out, especially after his recent defeat in the race for prime minister.

AccessTimeIconSep 21, 2022 at 3:07 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 4:49 p.m. UTC

The U.K. said it still plans on becoming a crypto hub despite a recent leadership shuffle, and industry advocates are thrilled.

Even with all of the change in its leadership, the U.K. government is set to press forward with former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak’s plans to turn the country into an international hub for crypto, Richard Fuller, the country’s new economic secretary to the Treasury, said at the U.K.’s first-ever crypto debate in Westminster last week.

The local blockchain community’s hopes for innovation-friendly regulations that could push the U.K.’s stagnant crypto industry forward were dented when Sunak stepped down from his position in July, and perhaps even more so when he lost to Liz Truss in the contest to be prime minister.

But Fuller's comments came as a “great signal of progress” to the crypto community, according to Baroness Manzila Uddin, co-chairwoman of a cross-party parliamentary group that’s focused on the metaverse and Web3.

In April, Sunak, along with Fuller’s predecessor, John Glen, made headlines when they announced their plans to turn the country into a crypto hub.

When the seemingly crypto-friendly Sunak resigned in July, Ian Taylor, executive director of CryptoUK, a London-based lobby group, told CoinDesk that it could simply mean Sunak and Glen will be back “in a different form.”

“However, you can say all of the hard work the community has done in the last two years educating Rishi Sunak and John Glen has now gone away," Taylor said at the time.

Little from Truss so far

Truss had revealed little about her stance on crypto aside from a couple of pro-innovation statements she made years ago.

Kwasi Kwarteng, Truss’ pick as finance minister, has likewise remained silent on crypto, although the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy he previously oversaw seemingly supported the development of blockchain technology.

“Clearly, it's good to see the continued statements of intent – with many in the industry perhaps fearing this was Sunak's baby, and scarce little from Truss herself in recent times,” Nick Jones, CEO of Zumo, a U.K.-based crypto wallet startup, told CoinDesk in a statement.

Sendi Young, managing director of U.K. and Europe at Ripple and Rushd Averroës, CEO of London-based crypto app Babb, said it is an exciting time for the U.K. crypto industry.

During last week’s crypto debate, Fuller said the government still plans to move forward with the new Financial Services and Markets bill, which seeks to regulate stablecoins. Those are cryptocurrencies that are pegged to the value of other assets like gold or the U.S. dollar. Fuller also said a separate Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill will go ahead which could also give authorities the power to seize crypto assets tied to crime.

Fuller also echoed the government's goal of enforcing strict rules for crypto promotions in line with local ad regulations.

“The strategy outlined in April by Glen is still very much in play,” Taylor said in an email to CoinDesk.

But some worry that the U.K.’s plans for crypto aren’t enough to catch up with other countries.

“I am concerned that what has been offered to date has been a patchy and piecemeal approach to regulation, compared to the far more comprehensive proposals in, for example, the European Union’s draft regulation,” Peter Grant, a member of Parliament, said at the crypto debate.

In response to that concern, Fuller said that in the months ahead the Treasury and the Financial Conduct Authority, the country’s financial regulator, will study the broader implications of crypto.


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Camomile Shumba

Camomile Shumba is a CoinDesk regulatory reporter based in the UK. She previously worked as an intern for Business Insider and Bloomberg News. She does not currently hold value in any digital currencies or projects.