As the United Kingdom prepares to welcome a new Prime Minister amidst dire economic headwinds, it seems necessary to point out that the guy they’ve elected to fix things is a certified Crypto Bro™️ who once requested that the Royal Mint issue an NFT.
Rishi Sunak was voted into office Monday following the resignation of former Prime Minister Liz Truss, who only served a record-breaking 44 days before stepping down under a maelstrom of criticism over her failed fiscal policies. Truss had argued Britain could fix its inflation-related woes by borrowing a ton of money to give tax breaks to the super-rich. Economic analysts predicted that not only would that plan not work, it would make inflation a whole lot worse. A failed effort to cram through this lunatic agenda is largely credited with having ended Truss’s leadership role with lightning speed.
Thankfully, now that Sunak has been installed, fiscal common sense can also make a comeback, right? Well, we’ll see! Given the new PM’s demonstrated interest in cryptocurrency, I have my doubts.
During his tenure as finance minister under former PM Boris Johnson, Sunak was in charge of advancing a number of crypto-related initiatives that sought to normalize digital currencies and integrate them into the British economy. By all accounts, he is the first crypto enthusiast to serve in the UK’s top office. He’s also the first person of color and the youngest PM—42 years old—that Britain’s had in 200 years.
To be fair, Sunak’s efforts at crypto promotion have at least trended towards regulation and taxation as opposed to total laissez faire deregulated madness—though those efforts could, ultimately, simply normalize a phenomenon that critics say is redundant at best and a privacy hazard at worst.
In April, Sunak announced a series of programs to turn the UK into what he called a “global cryptoasset technology hub.” Among the initiatives announced at the time was a plan to integrate stablecoins into the national payment system, thus “paving their way for use in the UK as a recognised form of payment.” Considered to be the least volatile form of cryptocurrency, stablecoins have seen more interest by governments than other forms of crypto—though projects like Terra and Tether have shown the potential danger in putting too much faith in the assets’ stability.
Sunak’s plans also suggested creating additional regulations that would’ve helped further incorporate crypto into the UK’s economic and legal framework, thus spurring greater investment in the space. “The measures we’ve outlined today will help to ensure firms can invest, innovate and scale up in this country,” Sunak wrote in a press release published at the time.
Another ambitious initiative pushed by Sunak was the Financial Services and Markets Bill, a piece of legislation that would give local governments in Britain broad discretion to regulate cryptocurrencies, thus further assimilating them into the nation’s economy. The bill, which has not yet passed, is currently being looked at by Parliament.
At the same time, Sunak also recently backed a study to look at the potential benefits of creating a central bank digital currency (CBDC), or “Britcoin” as he dubbed it. Proponents of CBDCs argue that they could have benefits for spenders, making payments “faster, cheaper, and more secure,” as one op-ed puts it. However, critics argue that they are unnecessary and could ultimately spell huge privacy troubles, given the trackable nature of crypto and digital currencies.
Despite his crypto track record, analysts have suggested that is is unlikely Sunak will have time to focus much on any web3-related initiatives in the near term. Given Britain’s current economic dumpster fire, any work on “Britcoin” might have to take a backseat.
Whether Sunak’s fiscal policies will be any better than Truss’s remains to be seen. Crypto or no, it’s just difficult to believe that that the new PM will be a great friend to everyday people, given his status as one of the wealthiest politicians in the western world. Currently richer than King Charles, Sunak garnered his elite status after marrying an heiress to a technology fortune in 2009, thus making him one half of a couple collectively worth some $828 million. Prior to his political career, he also built up his own fortune working at Goldman Sachs—an institution known for having a lot of money but not a ton of common sense or moral scruples. He also previously worked at a hedge fund. Suffice it to say, he’s not exactly Bernie Sanders.
Anyway, we at Gizmodo wish the Brits well and hope Sunak doesn’t turn the UK into El Salvador anytime soon.
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