In line with Britain’s major economic institutions, the UK will not be rushing to set global standards for crypto regulation, says Parliament’s top crypto lawmaker.
Dr. Lisa Cameron MP has been a Member of Parliament for the Scottish National Party since 2015. She is currently Head of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Cryptocurrencies and Digital Assets.
Speaking exclusively to BeInCrypto, she says the industry became an area of interest after a constituent lost some money in a scam about 18 months ago. Her constituent asked her to look up who was doing the work on cryptocurrency in Parliament, and it turned out that there was no one. “I got my researcher to investigate the industry and found that millions of our constituents were involved.”
The Doctor. Cameron contacted industry body Crypto UK to establish an APPG on cryptocurrencies and digital assets. Hoping to provide a framework for parliamentary scrutiny and policy development.
APPGs help MPs and peers from different parties to work together to discuss issues, suggest policies and initiate debates in Parliament. Any MP or Peer can create one and do things like meet, ask questions, write reports and invite experts to testify. They are not an official part of Parliament, but they can still affect government decisions and the functioning of Parliament.
“A lot of it came from a position of consumer protection and redress, and that is still at the core of what we do.”
The UK will not be first in regulation
As a global financial centre, there is often pressure on the UK to be an international standard setter for the rest of the world. London is still considered the second financial center. But there is a sense that the UK is falling behind in regulating digital assets.
“I was working a little bit on EU and MiCA and how they were moving forward. I didn’t want the UK to be left behind.” However, when she spoke to the Bank of England, the government and the Treasury, they had other ideas about how fast the UK should go. “There are advantages to being second or third in terms of looking at what works, capitalizing on that, and fixing anything that might not be working.”
Has Brexit had a negative effect on the UK crypto economy? She pauses before saying, “look, I didn’t vote for Brexit, but we are where we are. I just deal with the practicalities.”
“This gives the UK the opportunity to create a bespoke regulatory system. Which is a bit more work for us, but we could capitalize on some of those opportunities and hopefully build on the Prime Minister’s vision that the UK will become a crypto hub.”
Is UK Cryptocurrency a “Wild West”?
Not everyone in the UK is as open to the crypto industry as Dr. Cameron. Last month, the chairman of the Treasury Committee referred to the UK cryptocurrency as the “Wild West”. The comments come after 85% of all cryptocurrency companies applying to register with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) failed to meet minimum anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism standards.
New FCA Chair Ashley Alder recently told the Treasury Committee that crypto platforms were “deliberately evasive”. Furthermore, as large organizations in the sector are complicit in large-scale money laundering.
Reflecting on the recent comments, Cameron says there’s an element of mixed messaging.
“On the one hand, you have statements like that. And then, on the other hand, you have the Prime Minister saying he wants the UK to become a cryptocurrency hub. So what I must do in my job as chairman of the group is try to square the circle.”
“Yes, we need consumer protection. FTX and all, some people can be fooled, like my own constituent. For some people, yes, it can be the Wild West, so I agree with that. But that’s why we need to have a regulatory framework. Once we have that kind of structure that gives consumers and investors confidence, that’s when we can seize the opportunities and potential.”
The politician’s knowledge gap
During Cameron’s fireside chat, she shared an incident where she had to explain to an MP that “fiat” did not refer to a car. She expressed concern about the knowledge gap amongst UK lawmakers regarding this complex and evolving sector, painting a worrying picture.
“At the beginning of this journey, knowledge was very limited,” she says.
“In Parliament, we tend to be mostly generalists. Then you will understand that there are many debates going on every day in Parliament, and we can talk about many subjects. We tend to be knowledgeable about a lot of things, but it’s not domain specific.”
“When I started researching who was doing the work in parliament, and when it was talked about, and there was no debate about the industry.”
“This year, we had two,” she told me in late February, looking pleased. “We have many questions to the minister and we have had statements from the Government. So, you know, we have a lot of momentum right now.
Though Cameron herself is modest about her own knowledge and emphasizes the learning journey she herself has been on. “MPs come from a limited knowledge baseline, and I include myself in that,” she tells me, hand on her chest, smiling as her parliamentary aide passes her lunch. “We had to improve. This sector is not something you can just pick up a booklet and talk about in Parliament. You need an educational program first.”
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