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Brexit, Binance and Bitcoin: A New Era for Crypto in the UK?

Brexit, Binance and Bitcoin: A New Era for Crypto in the UK?

With the clock ticking on Britain’s much-debated exit from membership of the EU and all that means if a decision is finally agreed by September, where will this leave the UK in European Crypto Space? In a position of strength, or cut-off from its legislative support on the other side of the channel?

Well, no man is an island according to English metaphysical poet John Donne, but at this moment in time, it appears that the UK is digging its own hole in the sand as each week passes towards the latest agreed date of departure, when Great Britain and Northern Ireland hopefully get its rules back from the longtime European partners; the leaver’s much heralded and acclaimed  “taking back control.”

Does this even matter when it comes to cryptocurrency trading? In the UK the banks are aware of it, the Bank of England is monitoring it, and the man on the street pretty much knows about it. Bitcoin continues to be classified as private money, with VAT applied and also subject to capital gains tax, where profits and losses are involved.

However-and Britain has illustrated with great clarity to a dumbfounded Europe with its Brexit machinations-it is often slow to make decisions and enforce regulations; in fact, the UK now risks falling behind its European partners regarding cryptocurrency regulations unless it acts with more clarity and decisiveness, and guess who has taken up the leading role in this regard? The French…that must hurt.

Yes, the UK’s Financial Services Authority (FSA) did release a recent update of its progress which is currently in the hands of the specially selected Cryptoassets Taskforce.  However, a series of final guidelines or policy guidelines are still awaited from the FSA after the release of this consultation paper as far as regulatory dynamics go. With France now happy to lead Europe on a regulatory charge, Britain could be left counting its fingers after Brexit.

There are those in the UK however who like what they see in terms of crypto’s future after Brexit. Mike Romanov chief executive of Digital Securities Exchange (DSX) feels it can continue its dominance in the financial markets and crypto could come under the UK rather than EU legislative control. Others see an opportunity too, with a dent left in the Euro cryptocurrency market as Britain goes into its own crypto shell, out of reach from the EU’s legislative grasp, opening the door for new smaller players outside of the EU to leap in and plug some holes.

This is the Bitcoin bull’s stance, Britain hopes for friendlier digital currency regulations than it has at present. Another consideration is what might happen to the price of BTC with the impact of a final departure or possible vote to remain (the usual suspects) this year. There is a general feeling that it is simply the Brexit debate which is pinning the economy down and any kind of departure from this pain will be a release for both traditional and digital financial markets. According to the Bank of England, the economy has been shedding about £800M every week since they made the verdict in 2016.

There is one man who is just happy at what he sees, and if it continues, well then long may it do so. Enter Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao who, having now set up in Jersey is in the right place at the right time; well located for Europeans and Brits alike, whatever the outcome. With the existing offshore legal and regulatory framework for cryptocurrency, it is made to measure, given that there is now more than just a hint that Brits could turn to cryptocurrency come the predicted economic fallout given a no deal Brexit this year, and for this event, Zhao sees himself in the front line.

When it comes to crypto, the front line is always the place to be.

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UK Fintech Firms Go “Jurisdiction Shopping” as Brexit Looms

UK Fintech Firms Go

Financial technology (fintech) startups based in the United Kingdom are apparently now seeking to relocate their operations, as the UK faces an imminent breakup with the European Union (EU), thereby losing its regulatory passport and privilege of free trade within the EU.

This trend was exemplified by such a firm, London-based payments startup Azimo, whose interview with current affairs commentator Politico revealed that fintech businesses in the UK had already been searching for alternatives overseas as soon as the Brexit referendum was finished in June 2016. Azimo CEO Michael Kent bluntly said:

“We went jurisdiction shopping the week after the referendum.”

His company is one of UK’s most popular digital payments company, boasting over a million users and employing 135 employees across London and Krakow in Poland. While Kent believed that the UK’s position as a fintech hub and top consumer market for neo financial services would not be in danger, he said that free trade in the EU was paramount to continued success.

A continental license that would allow passporting of services to other EU member states, was what he and others were looking for. And after negotiating with many suitors, Azimo found that in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, it seems. Kent explained:

“We like the Dutch regulator. They are strict, highly regarded and although it took a lot longer to get approved than we thought, they have an open mind to us and what we do, which you can’t say about all the others.”

The Dutch financial market regulator claims to have had some 150 Brexit-related discussions with firms and has already issued over 30 new licenses.

 

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Brexit Deal or No Deal: The Effect on UK’s Blockchain Industry

Brexit Deal or No Deal: The Effect on the UK Blockchain Industry

The United Kingdom’s impending exit from the European Union has the economy on edge. Parliament has yet to approve Prime Minister Theresa May’s exit agreement and a so-called “no deal Brexit” is a looking like a real possibility.

Just a few months away on 29 March, the UK is scheduled to leave, and nobody knows quite how the laws and regulations that the EU currently govern will be affected, what the situation will be for EU workers, or what trade relations will be in place for the rest of Europe.

With these instabilities in mind, here are some of the effects Brexit may impose on the UK’s leading blockchain industry.

Financial regulation

It is no secret that the City of London is Europe’s financial capital but many have questioned whether it can remain in this position when the UK leaves the Union. Many financial service providers are there, after all, to provide services to European clients from a location that adheres to all of the required regulation.

If the UK no longer follows EU finance regulations, it will likely fail to attract these international firms. Coinbase, for example, has already moved its European base from London to Ireland. Part of the blockchain industry’s success in the UK can be attributed to the existing infrastructure for firms and international talent that the City of London attracts. In this case, what is bad for mainstream finance also looks to be bad for blockchain.

However, Brexit also offers the UK a chance to create its own unique financial policies which have the potential to produce a more crypto-friendly environment than that imposed by the EU. While the Union requires firms to uphold strict know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) policies for their clients, Brexit would be the chance for the UK to create a more autonomous financial sector, although there has yet to be any indication of a move in this direction.

Another case that could work in the blockchain industry’s benefit is if the UK chose to adjust its DPA 2018 legislation (its version of Europe’s 2018 General Data Protection Regulations) which has caused much friction for operations built on immutable blockchains that do not readily allow the removal of data as the privacy regulations require. Any data regarding European citizens that is stored on a blockchain would still be subject to GDPR, although Brexit would give the UK an opportunity to create more flexible regulations compared to GDPR.

EU workers

The blockchain industry faces the same challenge as every other sector in the UK regarding migrant workers from the EU. While the government has just launched a scheme that would allow current EU residents to remain living and working in the UK after Brexit, the plan has faced scrutiny over its impracticality in registering residents. This owes to the facts that the application only works on the most recent versions of Android phones, and a fear that they are not doing enough to let people know they must register themselves.

Europeans who fail to register on the Settlement Scheme could find themselves deported from July 2021.

London, the UK blockchain hub, is compiled of 14% European workforce, with 26% of workers coming from outside of the EU.

Trade deals

As it stands, Theresa May has ruled out the chance of the UK remaining in the Single Market and the European customs union after Brexit.

This will impact both businesses that use blockchain to export or import products between the UK and Europe, as well as those that provide services of any kind within the region. Services account for 70% of economic activity in the EU and the Single Market gives companies the freedom to offer these services anywhere within the Union.

The last few years have seen cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance expand across Europe, but leaving the Single Market means they would have to operate with the UK’s own unique regulations. To keep up interest from exchanges, the UK will have to prove its worth the extra costs required to move operations locally.

Losing its voice

The UK has one of the leading blockchain industries in Europe, but Brexit could result in a loss of political power in drafting crucial legislation for the technology. For one, with no more Members of European Parliment representing the UK after Brexit, the country will no longer be allowed any official input in creating EU policy.

Pro-crypto MEPs such as Eva Kaili have proven how effective a positive voice can be in the governing body, with her efforts resulting in the crafting of the parliamentary Blockchain Resolution.

Blockchain and Brexit

It is not all doom and gloom for the industry, however. Blockchain has indeed been given a spotlight by the UK government for its potential in providing a solution to the customs crisis, being hailed as an opportunity to continue providing ”frictionless trade” with the EU.

Particularly valuable on the contentious issue of the Ireland border, blockchain has been hailed as a way for the government to track the movement of goods in a transparent, immutable, and non-invasive way. The UK’s finance minister Philip Hammond even called blockchain an ”obvious” solution to the problem.

An uptick in blockchain logistics solutions could well increase the levels of UK companies that adopt the technology, but financial services providers that utilize blockchain may find themselves having a more difficult time adjusting to the forthcoming new regulations.

May’s latest update in Parliment on Monday 21 January included a commitment to sticking to the 29 March Brexit date so there is not long left to see what the deal will look like, if there is one at all.

 

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Jersey Exchange Swamped with Bitcoin Demand as UK Squabbles Over Brexit

jersey, cryptocurrency, binance

Hong-Kong based Binance is experiencing a huge response for Bitcoin at its newly opened trading platform on the Island of Jersey.

CEO Changpeng Zhao has reported crazy demand for new registrations on the new exchange since its opening last week which is based in the self-governing UK dependency. The overwhelming amount of applications for KYC is thought to be a direct result of the current uncertainty on the UK mainland over Brexit.

With UK prime minister Teresa May’s crushing defeat of her deal with the EU for an orderly exit from the European Union, the country is now faced with numerous options, none of which can be agreed upon by politicians charged with the responsibility of delivering Brexit. Binance’s Chief Financial Officer Wei Zhou explained why the mad rush for Bitcoin in Jersey:

“Expanding the cryptocurrency exchange markets with fiat currencies in the European region is opening new economic opportunities for Europeans as well as freedom from looming Brexit uncertainty where the pound and euro are also in concern.”

Zhou goes on to explain that in his view, broader cryptocurrency adoption can be achieved by bridging the “crypto-fiat channel for Europe and the UK.” Binance has maintained for a while that Brexit could well impact on Jersey in terms of it becoming a driving force within Europe’s crypto market which has lagged behind Asia and North America.

Data provider CryptoCompare recently identified Europe’s sluggish performance compared to other markets, returning less than 4% of the global volume last year. Last week, UK Finance warned of the catastrophe that would occur within the country’s financial system if a no-deal Brexit was the final outcome on 29 March.

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Ireland Needs Blockchain Workers but Few are Listening

Despite some Irish universities’ push to promote blockchain technology through education, it appears the industry and general public aren’t getting the message if the results of a recent survey have any credibility. Tech PR firm Wachsman has released the results of a survey which indicates that, although the industry is crying out for manpower, three-quarters of Irish people wouldn’t consider a career in a blockchain-related industry.

Ireland currently has a forward-thinking approach to blockchain technology. Earlier this year, National University of Ireland (NUI) authors of a study on the adoption of blockchain approached the government to promote a more widespread use of the technology in the country.

One of the findings of that study showed that only 40% of companies in Ireland had embraced blockchain technology, which the researchers felt was relatively low, despite Ireland’s 13th position on Bloomberg’s 2018 Innovation Index, with high productivity scores and advanced IT infrastructure.

With the latest Waschman commissioned survey it appears that the situation isn’t changing. “People in Ireland don’t know yet how transformative a technology blockchain is and that it’s such a wide-ranging technology,” claims CEO David Wachsman, suggesting that many feel that the potential for risk is too great.

The problem of “education” has arisen previously in other survey’s illustrating that there is still a lack of industry and public knowledge about DLT and how it functions. This recent survey indicated this lack of understanding was still a prevalent factor in blockchain adoption, with over half of the 1,000 respondents citing the education gap as a barrier. 10% simply thought that they didn’t have the necessary educational backgrounds to work in the industry. Wachsman argued:

“I think there is a risk that Ireland could fall behind, even though it has so many advantages, if people aren’t even willing to consider a career in one of the fastest growing industries. The education gap is real. It’s a severe challenge considering Ireland is a tech hub and should be embracing novel technologies.”

Research leader at NUI Galway, Dr Trevor Clohessy, sees the need for a national initiative to promote the new technology, particularly in the light of, as yet undecided border rules, between Ireland and the north following Brexit:

“…Beyond business, other beneficial uses of this technology would be in voting machines and ballot boxes to address electoral fraud and potentially looking at a blockchain enabled technology-controlled border identification system that could provide a possible solution to the current North/South Brexit border challenges.”

 

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Crypto Helping Homeless Through Winter on Scotland’s Streets

Scotland may not have gained its independence and its ministers continue to fight Brexit in the UK parliament amid cabinet resignations but with winter coming, at least Scotland’s homeless are getting a helping hand courtesy of cryptocurrency.

These are not good times politically for Scotland but spare a thought for those facing a bitter northern winter living on the streets of Glasgow. Cryptocurrency startup, the Scotcoin Project, clearly have, linking up with non-profit venture Social Bite to fight homelessness.

The project’s aim is to fund charity ventures and fight poverty in Scotland by generating enough funds to place the country’s homeless in rented accommodation and get them off the streets and on their feet in the cold weather. By donating GBP 5 to the homeless fund for every GBP 20 earned from its Scotcoin token sales, the project is coming just before winter starts to bite.

The winter program will be temporary as the project will looking for permanent accommodation through Scotlands’s “Housing First” program in the long term. Glasgow Housing First provides:

“… mainstream social housing and 24-hour support to individuals who are homeless, aged 18 or over and involved in drug misuse. The service places homeless individuals directly into independent tenancies in Glasgow with no requirement to progress through transitional housing programs. By sustaining a permanent tenancy in Glasgow, service users are in a better position to access community support, health care, and social benefits.”

Scotcoin almost became a victim of the country’s independence referendum on 18 September 2014, which resulted in a no-vote; a decision which is still having repercussions today, given that the country voted against Brexit by a majority in 2016 but are still bound to Westminster’s legislation.

Before the independence vote went the wrong the way for Scottish Nationalists, Scotcoin was being held up by its creators as a pro-independence cryptocurrency of Scotland, allowing the country to replace the pound if the country had voted “yes”.

Scotcoin’s leading stakeholder Temple Melville calls the project “an inspiring initiative” and indicated that the match between his company and Social Bite was a natural one as they were already operating in the same field: “One of our stated objectives is to help eradicate homelessness, and Social Bite is already well established within this area.”

Temple claims that he has received funding of a staggering USD 2 billion pledge from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos; if this figure is accurate, with the 4-1 bonus system this would make a huge impact on the homeless project to the tune of USD 50 million. Temple commented:

“We have several thousand holders of Scotcoin and have holders in more than 50 countries worldwide… On migration to our new [Counterparty] blockchain, present holders of Scotcoin will be rewarded for their support by receiving a 4-for-1 bonus, an effective increase in the value of up to 5 times.”

 

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UK Crypto to Flourish Despite Brexit Fears, Say Experts

Experts in the UK have indicated that Brexit augurs well for cryptocurrency regardless of concerns about the direction of Britain’s economy after March 2019.

UK Chancellor Philip Hammond’s August forecast that the UK could see an 87.7 percent hit to GDP and a £80 billion black hole in public finances in a no-deal scenario holds no concern for many cryptocurrency experts.

Mike Romanov, chief executive of Digital Securities Exchange (DSX) sees Brexit as a further way of the UK establishing its own rules for cryptocurrency trading which will push the sector forward, arguing that, “Britain is already looking at how it can maintain its dominance in financial services post Brexit, even as some major players abandon ship ahead of March next year.”

This is not only a positive outcome for conventional financial markets according to Romanov, but the UK taking back rulemaking could have a significant impact on the trading of digital currency. He suggests:

“As such, crypto could present a big opportunity. While the EU looks to apply regulation at an EU level, taking it out of the control of member states, Britain could be free to apply its own rules and shape itself to become a well-regulated and crypto friendly market that looks to nurture the future of this financial movement rather than eye it with an air of suspicion and cynicism.”

Cryptology’s chief commercial officer Herbert Sim also feels that bureaucracy will take a dent when Britain pulls out and that this has to be a good thing for crypto movement in the financial environment. He suggests that “…leaving the EU will give the UK decision-making capabilities on areas that the EU’s bureaucratic processes can be desperately slow to decide on.” The opening of foreign crypto markets outside of Europe will positively impact the status quo, Sim suggests. Another CEO, Iqbal Gandham from eToro, claims that any volatility from Brexit will be short-lived:

“We are already seeing crypto assets used as an alternative in less stable economies, and Brexit could spark a new wave of investment from people looking to diversify their portfolios and hedge against geopolitical risk.”

However, all these positivity comes with a warning according to Romanov who comments that Britain needs to maintain its competitive edge, “What can’t happen is for Britain to become scared of its own financial shadow and water down the investment it’s made into new technologies, all in a bid to placate the traditional financial services world.”

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Coinbase Secures Ireland Office as Brexit Safety Net

On Monday, major cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase announced the opening of a new office in Ireland’s capital of Dublin. The move is said to prevent any risks to the company associated with the UK leaving the European Union (EU).

With the UK scheduled to break off from the EU and possibly its entire regulatory framework, Coinbase has been forced to relocate its European hub from its London offices, although the London branches will remain in place to service the UK. According to Coinbase, the EU was its fasted growing market in 2017 and Ireland was most well equipped to provide the expertise needed to take this on.

Ireland’s Minister for Financial Services and Insurance, Michael D’Arcy T.D, praised the cryptocurrency exchange’s decision, saying it is a reflection of the country’s growing competitiveness in the financial services industry.

Speaking to UK-based news outlet the Guardian, Coinbase’s UK CEO Zeeshan Feroz said that in the case of a so-called hard Brexit that sees the UK leaving the European Customs Union, the exchange cannot risk not being able to provide the same level of service to customers located in Europe.

Feroz added that in addition to providing a Brexit contingency plan, the Dublin office will be well-placed to benefit the burgeoning Irish cryptocurrency economy and provide a number of skilled tech jobs, alongside growing the national technology sector.

While the Dublin branch assuming the role as EU leader may come as a blow to the UK, Feroz believes that there is a way the government can make Brexit work in its favor for the cryptocurrency industry.

”I am of the view today that there is an opportunity for Britain post-Brexit to perhaps take the lead in offering “balanced regulation” for the sector,” he told the Guardian, adding “In general, and outside of Brexit, I think crypto should be regulated as a service. There are businesses out there like ours that handle billions of dollars or pounds every day.”

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UK Finance Minister Sees Blockchain Solution for Post-Brexit Irish Border

The UK’s finance minister Philip Hammond thinks he may have found an answer to the issue of trade across the Irish border after Brexit takes place: tracking cross-border trade with blockchain.

At the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, Hammond said that despite his lack of expertise in the area, blockchain seemed to be the ”obvious” choice of technology to manage the Irish border once Great Britain leaves the European Union and, as Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal looks now, also the EU Customs Union.

The border is a particularly intricate issue in the Brexit dealings as it resembles many inter-state borders in the EU in being both inconspicuous, and having 200 public roads crossing into Northern Ireland. The free passage of people has been allowed since 1923 and of goods since 1993, but leaving the EU customs union means that some form of border controls would need to be established.

Blockchain could be seen as part of a solution to the issue, as it would enable the relevant government departments to track the movement of goods in a transparent, immutable, and non-invasive way. Similar logistics projects have sprung up over the globe in the last few years, including one such service from computer technology giant IBM and a sustainable sugarcane project looking to track sugar cane entering Australia.

Irish academics are on board with the idea, with the National University of Ireland (NUI) publishing a report earlier this year calling on the government to promote blockchain in Ireland. NUI offers several ways that awareness and adoption of blockchain can be encouraged in Ireland while arguing that this will enable economic growth.

As a leading nation in blockchain technology, the UK’s reputation in the field would also benefit from such a large, state-run project such as that proposed by Hammond.

 

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What Lies Ahead for Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies, Post-Brexit?

A Britain-based CEO has suggested that post-Brexit, cryptocurrencies will benefit the UK as they have key advantages over fiat currencies.

Danial Daychopan of Crypto company Plutus, suggests that due to the pound and euro’s interdependence and the fact that they are both based on other currencies,  allows decentralized cryptocurrencies to offer a “variable and stable alternative” for both consumers and businesses in the post-Brexit UK.

The current lack of direction in Brexit negotiations has led some people to believe that a period of instability is a possibility as both Europe and the UK race towards next year’s deadline. Daychopan sees instability and lack of trust in governments and the global financial system as key to the success of digital currencies. He claims:

“…in economies that aren’t stable, we’re already seeing digital economies developing and thriving. We’re approaching a period of instability and people need to understand that cryptocurrencies are going to be a force for good, not just tokens to be speculated upon.”

In terms of where cryptocurrencies sit once Britain’s departure from the EU becomes a reality, it is still unclear how Brexit will affect the future of blockchain and cryptocurrencies in both zones. The EU including the UK, with the exception of only 6 states, has signed up to the EU Blockchain Partnership which will promote the future exchange of expertise in order to launch EU wide blockchain-based applications across the single digital market.

The EU has called for cryptocurrency regulation at both European and G20 level and would clearly like to regulate the industry from Brussels, a further possible complication for the UK. As current members of the “EU Blockchain Observatory Forum” the UK has already benefited from membership with the EU’s fintech market, now valued at $6 billion.

Kay Swinburne, Member of the European Parliament (MEP), argues that bodies such as the EU Blockchain Observatory Forum are not essential to the UK advancing its fintech impact after Brexit. The UK, with its new crypto haven Gibraltar, having advanced significantly down the cryptocurrency and blockchain route, may be well placed to withstand significant damage to its fintech markets on withdrawal.

As the UK prepares to leave the EU it is also reportedly planning to create its own crypto regulations before 2019. The EU has already passed its own blockchain resolution for a post-Brexit Europe in order to remain a global fintech hub.

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