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Boris Johnson defies his own regulators by jumping headfirst into Web3 and NFTs

April 5, 2022, 6:50 PM UTC

While the U.K.’s top regulator cracks down on crypto companies, Boris Johnson’s administration is sending a different message: The British government is all in on NFTs. 

U.K. Finance Minister Rishi Sunak requested that the government sponsor an NFT, according to John Glen, the economic secretary to the treasury, during a keynote address at a global finance summit. Further details are yet to be announced, but Glen said the Royal Mint, which produces physical coins for the country, will take on the project.

“Finally, I am announcing today that the Chancellor has asked the Royal Mint to create a non-fungible token—an NFT…to be issued by the summer, an emblem of the forward-looking approach we are determined to take,” Glen said.

Glen went on to make clear the government’s supportive stance toward cryptocurrencies and NFTs.

“If there is one message I want you to leave here today with, it is that the U.K. is open for business—open for crypto businesses,” Glen said in the speech.

He added that the government is also working on legislation to bring stablecoins, or cryptocurrencies tied to the price of fiat currencies, into the government’s payment framework, which could increase their use. The Law Commission, an independent commission created by the U.K. parliament, is also reviewing the legal status of decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs: entities without a single leader, that make all their decisions through blockchain-based voting.

The British Treasury might be bullish on NFTs, but the U.K.’s financial watchdogs, and other major figures in the economy, are not. 

On Monday, April 4, the governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, criticized cryptocurrencies as being the “front line” for scams. Although Bailey said cryptocurrencies could bring innovation, he also said that the emerging technology is an “opportunity for the downright criminal.” 

Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority has been actively trying to regulate the crypto space over the last few years. It has ordered all crypto companies operating in the country to register with authorities, which means complying with strict anti-money-laundering standards. Only 33 crypto companies have been fully registered to operate in the U.K. out of the more than 100 that have applied since 2020.

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