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As UK elections loom, is crypto a priority for Labour?

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As UK elections loom, is crypto a priority for Labour?

The Conservatives, who have introduced a slew of pro-crypto policies in recent years, are expected to lose hundreds of seats when UK elections takes place on July 4.

Crypto has taken a prominent role in the U.S. presidential campaign — with Donald Trump cozying up to Bitcoiners. But over in Britain, where voters head to the polls in a little over two weeks’ time, it’s fair to say digital assets haven’t been too much of a focus for the candidates.

You could argue that it should be. The latest data from the Financial Conduct Authority shows that 9% of U.K. adults owned crypto in August 2021. That’s equivalent to almost five million people — and given the recent bull market, there’s little doubt these numbers are soft.

However, we are seeing some gentle lobbying going on behind the scenes. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his governing Conservative Party have repeatedly spoken of their ambition for the U.K. to become a “global cryptoasset hub” but are languishing behind in the polls after a torrid campaign. One prediction model put forward by The Economist suggests that the Tories have less than a 1% chance of being elected on July 4.

Because of this, businesses in the crypto industry are now trying to woo Labour, who are streets ahead in the polls and likely to clinch the keys to Downing Street. It appears some inroads have been made already, too. Back in January — before the current campaign kicked off — shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves (who would become finance minister if Labour wins) attended a breakfast in Davos that was hosted by Coinbase.

Once the starting gun was fired in the battle for Number 10, Coinbase doubled down by bringing its Stand With Crypto campaign to British shores. Initially launched as an American initiative that “mobilizes the crypto community to directly engage in the legislative process,” a glitzy launch event was held in the House of Commons last month. It was attended by government ministers as well as senior members of the Labour team who want to replace them.

As UK elections loom, is crypto a priority for Labour? - 1
Source: Stand With Crypto UK

This has been followed up by a seven-point plan — described as a “manifesto” — that would help the U.K. become a global leader in fintech, digital assets, and tokenization. Key policy recommendations made for the next government include:

  • Welcoming fintech, Web3 and crypto firms to do business in Britain
  • Establishing a “comprehensive regulatory framework” for crypto assets
  • Delivering regulatory clarity on staking
  • Understanding how decentralization could revolutionize the economy
  • Encouraging all departments to embrace blockchains and make public services more efficient
  • Launching a tokenization strategy for the City of London
  • Updating Britain’s legal frameworks for digital assets

Other groups, including the U.S.-based Crypto Council for Innovation, is seeking clarity on existing regulation that has proven “challenging” to implement for its members, as well as “a path to a broader regulatory regime.”

They’re all certainly lofty ambitions — but it’s unclear how much of a priority this would be for Sir Keir Starmer if, as predicted, he becomes the next Prime Minister. Last month, he stated that his most urgent “first steps” would include imposing strict spending rules, establishing a state-owned energy firm, slashing waiting lists for the health service, clamping down on smuggling gangs, and hiring more police officers and teachers.

Will recent policies be reversed?

A more pressing concern for many crypto investors and businesses in Britain is whether or not Labour would undo some of the friendlier policies that were introduced during Rishi Sunak’s time in office. While the Tories had promised to finalize stablecoin legislation before Parliament broke up for the summer, that proposal has now been put on ice because of the election. Will this be canceled for good under new management? 

The Crypto Council for Innovation seems pretty relaxed about this. It said:

“Starmer appears to be a considered and focused leader who is not expected to unpick the Conservatives’ work on crypto simply on principle. This makes it more likely than not that large pieces of legislation like that related to stablecoins will be allowed to continue. Additionally, the FCA is independent and retains its staff irrespective of any change in government.”

Crypto Council for Innovation

Striking an optimistic tone, the council argued that a new government amounts to “an opportunity” for the crypto sector — especially considering valuable contacts could be made among newly elected MPs heading to Westminster for the first time.

But with a bloodbath expected for the Tories — who had 376 seats in 2019 and may be left with just 80 on polling day — it’s also fair to say that some of the industry’s most dependable friends in London may be left unemployed.