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2024, UK might implement first set of crypto regulations

The government of the U.K. has completed its review of comments received from the public regarding its proposed regulatory regime for crypto assets and has decided to move forward with implementing the first set of rules to regulate the crypto sector, including a requirement that all market participants be authorized before they can offer services to customers.

HM Treasury released the government’s responses to the comments received from the public on Monday, saying, “The government’s ambition to make the UK a global hub for cryptoasset technologies remains steadfast.”

“To realize this ambition, we must make the UK a place where cryptoasset firms have the clarity needed to invest and innovate, and where customers have the protections necessary for confidently using these technologies,” said Andrew Griffith, economic secretary to the Treasury.

“The learnings gathered from our engagement have been invaluable for further informing our approach,” he added. “While most aspects of our proposals were well received by the large majority of respondents, we have modified certain features of our future framework to take onboard the evidence presented.”

The Treasury said it would move ahead as proposed in a February public consultation, requiring firms undertaking cryptoasset activities to be authorized by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), although it gave no start date.

“By and large, the government intends to implement the territorial scope of the future regulatory regime as proposed in the Consultation,” they said. “This means a person (whether legal or natural) will generally be required to be authorized by the FCA under Part 4A of FSMA if they are undertaking one of the regulated activities or are providing a service in or to the UK.”

The rules that the Treasury intends to enforce focus on crypto assets like Bitcoin (BTC), the underlying blockchain technology that underpins the sector, and providers that are looking to offer crypto asset services to the U.K. public.

Regulated activities include offering a cryptoasset, operating a trading platform, swapping cryptoassets for currencies such as sterling, arranging investments and lending in cryptoassets, and safekeeping or custody.

“The government’s position is that firms dealing directly with UK retail consumers should be required to be authorized irrespective of where they are located,” they said.

The ministry said the new rules will be brought under established market law rather than exist as a standalone regime.

“It’s unlikely that crypto regulation will be easily shoe-horned into the existing regulatory framework,” said Jonathan Cavill, a lawyer at Pinsent Masons. “The reality is that as the market develops at pace, the UK runs the risk of being left behind if it fails to attract crypto businesses.”

The ministry said it plans to accelerate the implementation of these rules to provide the sector with greater clarity and will present secondary legislation to parliament in 2024. They also released a separate document outlining their approach to regulating stablecoins and will propose legislation in 2024 to give the FCA powers to oversee them.

The decision to move forward with establishing regulations around digital assets comes on the heels of the June passage of the Markets in Crypto Assets (MiCA) legislation in the European Union, which is the world’s first set of comprehensive rules specifically for cryptoasset markets.

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