A House of Commons Committee has heard there has been little to no progress on blockchain technology since it first emerged in 2008. The comments may have fallen on deaf ears, however, as there are growing signs that the U.K. is set to further embrace blockchain.
Forever-skeptic David Gerard made the statement to the Science and Technology Committee last Wednesday, in testimony that went largely unnoticed at the time. Earlier today, the committee reposted Gerard’s polemic to its Twitter account, successfully garnering more attention.
According to Gerard, blockchain was all about promising something “fabulous” in the future, while failing to deliver anything worthwhile in the present.
“You’d expect more to show by now,” said Gerard. “It’s been 13 years. Consider other technologies that came to prominence around the same time. The iPhone. If we were sitting here 13 years later going, ‘I wonder if anyone will find a really good use for an iPhone,’ it wouldn’t be convincing.”
Openness and transparency
While Gerard gave his tired and predictable anti-blockchain routine, other speakers on the committee were decidedly more positive about the industry. Dr. Tom Robinson of the chain analysis firm Elliptic was of the speakers making a positive case for crypto. Dr. Robinson told the committee that one of the benefits of blockchain, in sharp contrast to fiat, was its openness and transparency.
“The criminal use of crypto can be identified and tracked,” said Robinson, “and that’s because of the inherent transparency of blockchains.”
In a classic example of tailoring your message for your audience, Robinson went on to state that using chain analysis software such as theirs, allows exchanges to screen incoming transactions and meet their anti-money laundering (AML) obligations.
Presumably, Robinson would be just as happy to sell the same blockchain analysis service to U.K. regulators as well.
Stable movers and shakers in the blockchain sector
The U.K. is still considering how best to legislate the blockchain industry as a whole, but there are some early indications that the post-Brexit United Kingdom may choose to embrace the industry, pursuing a lighter regulatory touch than in mainland Europe.
In April the U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, set out his ambition “to make the UK a global hub for cryptoasset technology.” As part of that drive, the country plans to bring stablecoins “within the payments regulatory perimeter.”
“We believe that the United Kingdom is the next frontier for blockchain innovation and the wider implementation of cryptocurrency for financial markets,” said Paolo Ardoino, CTO of Tether. “Tether is ready and willing to work with UK regulators to make this goal a reality and looks forward to the continued adoption of Tether stablecoins.”
In the press release originating from Tether’s offices in the British Virgin Islands, the company went on to say that GBPT, “will reinforce the British Pound Sterling as one of the most dominant currencies across the globe.”
The ellipse becomes a circle
Even as the EU was tightening the screw on crypto with its anti-AML legislation on Wednesday, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong was addressing his staff from London. The Coinbase chief had flown into the U.K. to drive forward expansion plans in the region.
On Friday Coinbase asserted the particular importance of the U.K., revealing that it was the company’s largest market outside the U.S.
On Sunday, Armstrong took to Twitter to compliment regulators on both sides of the Brexit divide.
“Nice to see the EU and UK leading here,” said Armstrong. “This will likely be a model for other countries to follow. More clear crypto regulation is going to be a huge unlock in [the] next up cycle.”
Armstrong went on to say the EU legislation was big news, “which went largely unnoticed.”
With the U.K. now deciding how best to regulate the industry, now is the perfect time for Armstrong and others to make their case — that lighter regulation could position the country favorably compared to its European neighbors. Coinbase publicly stated that it plans to work closely with regulators and legislators to ensure the company meets all necessary compliance standards.
In that endeavor the American exchange can always call on the help of its compliance AML partner; the London-based chainalysis firm Elliptic.