This is an opinion editorial from Bitcoms, a British writer and Bitcoiner.
“I made the joke on stage that when it comes to Bitcoin, I don’t consider myself to be from Edinburgh, I consider myself to be from Twitter,” says the writer. allen farrington. “I was worried, looking ahead, that Britain might be one of the last places to take it really seriously.”
But sit with me between sessions at the opening Bitcoin Collective conference in his hometown, Farrington is feeling more positive. “I think this event is really impressive,” he says. “To see all the effort that has gone into this and to see all the British Bitcoiners who have been equally enthusiastic and have come, it is really encouraging.”
You’re right: with dozens of top-tier international speakers, an impressive array of local exhibitors and genuine enthusiasm generated by hundreds of attendees, it’s hard not to feel energized by this new but already assured UK conference.
Britain is a Bitcoin No Man’s Land
But Farrington doesn’t get too carried away. “As far as regulation, it’s pretty grim,” he says. “I know many people who have chosen not to start Bitcoin companies here. It’s not even that the regulations are bad. The problem in the UK is more of an uncertainty. No one seems to know what they are actually allowed to do here and how it relates to existing financial regulation.”
These comments are repeated later on stage by Alan Higgins, chief investment officer of UK Coutts & Co., one of the world’s oldest banks that manages the wealth of high-net-worth investors. “It’s just not clear what we can and can’t do…it’s not clear in terms of regulations,” he explains. “And if we’re wrong: huge fines,” he adds, succinctly explaining why even the UK’s most adventurous financial institutions are still hesitant to get involved in Bitcoin.
Board member of Btrust and CEO of Fedi obi nwosu It gives me an idea of why the UK’s regulatory pace is so glacial and the environment so hostile. From 2013 to 2021, when he ran UK bitcoin-only exchange Coinfloor, Nwosu saw “more and more ambient music around appropriate and sensible regulation. Yet the people pushing for that, I would call them the Bitcoin progressives of the world.” regulatory”. and the political sphere, they tended to ultimately see this as so powerful that they needed to be a part of it. So they would go away and one by one they would join Bitcoin companies, or cryptocurrency companies. The bottom line is… you’re left with people who either don’t get it, or do get it but have come to the conclusion that it’s a net negative. And that leads to a more hostile regulatory environment.”
Another problem is that the little relevant UK regulation that already exists does not address the most important issues. “What bothers me most about regulation in general is that it’s about fighting money laundering, but not about really protecting the consumer,” he explains. danny scott, CEO of UK exchange Coincorner, noting that large exchanges are allowed to “add all the cryptocurrencies and tokens you can think of and list them all: it’s a casino.” Scott tells me that he would like to see a regulation that “protects the consumer from ‘pump and dump’, the MOONS, or those that are not legitimate companies. You need protection from them, not from a company that buys and sells Bitcoin.”
So what is the likely direction of regulatory travel? Dr Lisa Cameron, the UK Member of Parliament who attended both days of the conference, leads the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Digital Assets and Cryptocurrencies. “We’ve already brought the written presentations to the group, and over the next two months we’re going to have a series of oral evidence sessions,” she tells me. “Then we will bring it together for some initial recommendations to the government in January, and we want to publish it in the new year.”
“It’s not Bitcoin specific,” he explains, but “an investigation into the UK government’s aim to make Britain the hub of cryptocurrencies… We’re going to look at CBDCs, stablecoins and also best practices.” internationally, because… after Brexit, the UK can create a bespoke regulatory framework and develop its own particular niche.”
While the scope of the APPG may seem overly broad and somewhat preliminary, at least the Edinburgh conference gave Dr. Cameron the opportunity to discuss the issues on and off stage with Bitcoin veterans like Samson Mow, whose startup Jan3 aims to educate politicians and administrators. He makes the same kind of distinctions that Danny Scott wants the authorities to appreciate. “I don’t think Bitcoin requires any regulation. It’s just money,” Mow tells me. “I think this will be the trend where Bitcoin is recognized as money, it is not regulated, but all cryptocurrencies will be regulated. It can also add another layer of regulation for stablecoins. So I think having this distinction between these three groups of things is critical from the point of view of any regulator trying to put in place regulation that makes sense.”
If the UK APPG will reflect the constructive efforts by some US politiciansblatantly follow the EU hostile approach, or take a completely different track, remains to be seen. But what seems certain is that, at least currently, Britain is a Bitcoin no man’s land, not only from a regulatory point of view but also politically and even culturally.
“I see the UK caught between the US and Europe. I think the European Union will move down the CBDC route, and the Americas will just move into Bitcoin,” Jan3’s doogie ewing tells me. “In the UK, we’re right in the middle and I think we could go either way.”
Allen Farrington has long viewed the UK in a similar light: neither leaning nor turning away from Bitcoin. “I guess it could be worse, right? It could be the EU,” he says, alluding to the bloc openly bitcoin hostile stance. “It’s taken very seriously in the US, I think in part because it’s a natural extension of Silicon Valley, and there’s probably nowhere in the world where freedom itself is so culturally ingrained…it’s a way natural way to find Bitcoin,” he says. . “On the other end of the spectrum, you have Central America, West Africa, Southeast Asia, where it’s actually material circumstances that push people towards Bitcoin. For a while I had worried that the UK simply didn’t have any of this. It doesn’t have any of these reasons why it could take off.”
British bitcoiners are the ray of hope
But Farrington is beginning to see the prospects for the UK more positively. “It’s going to come down to exactly this kind of grassroots effort,” he says, referring to the conference. “That’s why I was so disappointed a year ago, but why I’m so upbeat now.”
Danny Scott is equally excited about what he’s been seeing on the ground across the UK for the last six months or so. “We have seen a huge increase in small communities,” he says, pointing to around “30 meetings in the UK that are now starting to take shape…they are talking about Bitcoin and trying to help increase Bitcoin adoption in their areas. Bitcoin is a community project and a community thing, so it’s good that we’re starting to see that now in the UK.”
Obi Nwosu has noted similar positive trends. “We have seen this organic rise, which started taking off in 2017/2018, continue to grow, and grassroots support for Bitcoin among the UK Bitcoin community is getting stronger and stronger,” he says. “And that’s really interesting because any change that happens that way tends to be very hard, very strong, very difficult to break. So I think the path to success for Bitcoin is to keep doubling down on that. Talk to regulators, try to explain, try to support their decision-making process, but don’t build a strategy that depends on them.”
Doogie Ewing also sees the UK Bitcoin community as instrumental in moving the country in the right direction. “I think it’s up to us as Bitcoin users to help raise awareness about the use case for Bitcoin, how it helps empower individual sovereignty,” she says. “And once we can educate people, I think the weight will come from people to push the Bitcoin standard in the UK and align more with the Americas, and maybe away from CBDC, which I think will come to Europe. “.
Bitcoin Collective CEO Jordan Walker expresses similar sentiments. “The conference was a huge success, but like Bitcoin, it is about the decentralized but collective effort of everyone in the space doing their part across the country to educate, inform and inspire others about Bitcoin. It gives people hope in a time of financial despair.”
The consensus is clear: if the hope of a Bitcoin-friendly Britain is to be realized, a concerted effort by the country’s Bitcoiners will be crucial.
This is a guest post from Bitcoms. The opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.