Matt Hancock hasn’t always backed the right horse – but he doesn’t regret his support for crypto despite the recent market downturn, the UK lawmaker told CoinDesk. Hancock – who served as health minister during
Matt Hancock hasn’t always backed the right horse – but he doesn’t regret his support for crypto despite the recent market downturn, the UK lawmaker told CoinDesk.
Hancock – who served as health minister during the COVID-19 pandemic under the Boris Johnson administration until he was caught in an anti-lockdown hug with an aide – has turned to defending the cryptography earlier this year.
A backbench MP for the ruling Conservative Party, Hancock is now one of the most prominent crypto lobbyists in British politics – with insight into government thinking as it enforces crucial crypto laws. digital assets.
Hancock backed pro-crypto finance minister Rishi Sunak over eventual winner Liz Truss in the recent Conservative Party leadership race. Hancock tried to replace Theresa May as prime minister in 2019 but pulled out of the contest which Johnson eventually won.
Despite 2022’s misfires in the crypto markets (as well as his political career), Hancock, still a lawmaker, is no less convinced of the power of digital assets to improve financial services.
“There are countless killer apps in focus right now,” he told CoinDesk in an online interview — though he admits digital asset markets are more mature than the Web3 ecosystem. wider.
“It’s a massive revolution that’s going to disrupt finance, the same way the digital revolution has disrupted music, retail and media – and no one was explaining it,” he said.
This year’s turmoil, including the crash in the price of major assets including bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH), and the implosion of the algorithmic stablecoin terraUSD, has only made it easier to lobby for the crypto, did he declare.
“What I take away from the market noise of the last six months or so is that the fundamentals are strong,” Hancock said. “It’s not about bitcoin. It’s about a much deeper disruption…giving people more control over how they run their business.
Read more: Johnson’s exit as UK PM leaves UK crypto ambitions on hold
“When the market goes up, heads are turned by the easy returns,” he said. “There’s a much more substantial case to be made when the market is tricky…it’s not just a ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme.”
The leader of the people to influence is Kwasi Kwarteng, who was appointed finance minister by Truss on September 6. Hancock admits Kwarteng has a lot to do; the unfunded tax cuts the minister announced on september 23 sent the gilt and forex markets plummeting.
But with the new government focused on driving growth, Hancock said he “fully expects” crypto to be the centerpiece of financial services reforms.
Kwarteng was “very, very positive” about crypto in a recent private meeting, Hancock said. “He understands the disruptive power of digital assets and, above all, that the UK needs to be a natural home…I couldn’t have been happier with the direction of travel.”
The competitive spirit adds fuel to the fire. The European Union, which the UK left, is currently finalizing its own cryptography law known as MiCA; in Paris, President Emmanuel Macron is aggressively courting innovative companies such as Binance and crypto.com.
“There’s nothing like a bit of Anglo-French rivalry to rally British politicians,” Hancock said. “What good is Brexit if we don’t want to have a more attractive regime than our continental neighbours?
The past few months have been turbulent in British politics. Mass resignations from Boris Johnson’s government in July were followed by a leadership race to replace him and then the death of Queen Elizabeth – all leaving little time for political tinkering. The industry is calling on the government to act.
“A lot of things that are in the works need to be finalized,” Andrew Whitworth, chief policy officer at London-based crypto firm Ripple, said in an online interview. “We can’t just sink, we need that clarity.”
Whitworth was heartened by Finance Minister Richard Fuller’s pro-crypto remarks made after Truss took office, but still hopes for more visible government support in the coming months.
Read more: Crypto remains a priority for the UK under new leader, sparking industry excitement
Hancock himself certainly has some ideas about what changes need to be made – and is unhappy with the existing legislative plans Sunak initiated in April.
“The Financial Services and Markets Bill which is now before Parliament is, in my view, essentially a placeholder, it shows intent,” said Hancock – warning he will get involved if the government lets him down. -even does not intervene in the next few weeks to, as he says, get the right details.
Hancock wants to reverse the burden of proof so that “the regulator has to show there is a problem”, rather than the current situation where startups have to seek “clearance” from the Financial Conduct Authority before they can even start.
“I want people to be able to build and only get involved with the regulator when [or] if there is a real problem,” he said.
In addition to changing FCA ‘behaviour’, Hancock wants to see clearly how existing rules apply to crypto, tax adjustments and more favorable capital treatment for crypto to incentivize traditional finance players .
Achieving Hancock’s goal, and that of Whitworth, would depend on an easing of the recent political turmoil. Although in principle the next election will not be called until 2025, current polls seem to suggest a landslide for the opposition Labor Party – from which, according to Hancock, there is less enthusiasm for crypto. .
“I don’t think he [crypto] is particularly partisan,” he said, “but I think there are more people who understand that on our side of the fence… the center-right of politics is more freedom-seeking.
A Labor Party spokesperson did not respond to CoinDesk’s request for comment on Hancock’s remarks – but the evidence seems to be that indeed the centre-left opposition group is more crypto-skeptical.
“Many rightly wonder if crypto has a future,” Treasury Labor Party spokeswoman Abena Oppong-Asare said during a parliamentary debate on September 7, adding that the country had become a “ center of illicit crypto activity” and that Russian oligarchs had used crypto to avoid Western sanctions.
“A Labor government would be serious about attracting fintech companies to the UK and safely harnessing the progressive potential of blockchain technology,” Oppong-Asare said. “To do it right, we need thorough and thoughtful regulation of the sector.”
Crypto isn’t Hancock’s first foray into online innovation: As minister responsible for digital policy in 2018, he launched his own social media app, which bears his name. Intended to prove that online discourse can be civilized, it still seems quite proud of it, despite the mild teasing it has garnered.
“I update it all the time,” he said. “I post on it pretty regularly, about riding stuff, in general.”
You can still download Matt Hancock from the Appstore, and recent posts about local issues like hospital expansions and canceled bus routes have drawn a few likes each. Will there be a Web3 version, CoinDesk asked?
“No,” he said. “The technology is not mature enough yet.”
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