David Cameron wants to use blockchain technology to fight government corruption

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David Cameron BlockchainLONDON — Former Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday that the technology that underpins digital currency bitcoin could be used to revolutionise governance and reduce global corruption.

Cameron, who was Prime Minister of Britain from 2010 until July last year spoke at the launch of fintech startup Blockchain's new east London offices.

He said that what "most excites me is the potential that your technology has to fight corruption and to deal with failures of governance and governments and the rule of law all over the world."

Blockchain — the technology, not the company — is a former of decentralized database that allows people to edit a shared ledger and will only be edited with the agreement of the majority of parties who use it. The system allows people to agree on an outcome without having to work through a middle man.

Banks and financial institutions have invested millions in developing commercial applications for the technology. Santander has estimated could save banks up to $20 billion (£16 billion) a year in administrative costs for things like settlement of trades.

Cameron, who admitted he was "only someone in the very foothills of understanding" the technology, said: "Obviously you've got amazing opportunity using blockchain technology in areas like banking and finance and insurance, but I think some of the public policy applications are potentially transformational."

 

He continued:

"The more I was Prime Minister, the longer I did the job, the more I could see that corruption and the failure of governments, the failure of rule of law, the presence of conflict in so many countries, was actually what was keeping them and their people trapped in poverty.

"I think there are so many opportunities that your technology has because it is digital, because it is decentralized, because it is transparent, because it is held away from governments. You have this opportunity to give the poorest and the most marginalised, the most dispossessed people in the world, to be able to have property rights, to be able to carry out transactions, to be able to save, to be able to invest. Your opportunities for instance in the remittances markets — a huge market — to help people have lower transaction costs and better property rights, are massive.

"But I think you also have the opportunity, if we can get it right, to help these governments and these countries to be less corrupt, to have the rule of law, and to have something else that we have in this country which sits alongside the rule of law, which is not just a set of rules but a sense of trust in the institutions that we use.

"I think you're on the brink of a very exciting revolution in all of those areas, which as someone involved in public life is very interesting. It's great to be at the start of a revolution here in London, I hope you keep this revolution going, I hope the government hears loud and clear the things that you need, and I hope you go on succeeding and growing."

What Cameron, who is reportedly being lined up to lead NATO, is proposing is essentially decentralised, transparent government processes, where budgets can be audited by anyone and services monitored by users.

Taxpayers wouldn't have to worry about a corrupt councillor fudging the numbers on a project to siphon cash into a crony's account, for example — any payments made would be recorded on the blockchain and available to view. And people couldn't have their property rights taken away by a despot who changes the record because ownership wouldn't be controlled by a central government register. (Of course, there are more sinister ways to take away property than through paperwork trickery.) Last year, while Cameron was still in office, Britain's government trialled the payment of benefits using blockchain.

Cameron's vision aligns him with George Galloway, an unlikely political alliance. Former Labour Party MP turned independent Galloway promised to run London's £17 billion mayoral budget on blockchain when he unsuccessfully ran for Mayor in 2015.

Fighting global corruption was one of Cameron's priorities in his second term as Prime Minister. Cameron held a global summit to tackle corruption shortly before leaving office last year and said at the time that corruption is "the root of so many of the world's problems." At the conference, Cameron was memorably caught on a live mic describing Nigeria and Afghanistan as "fantastically corrupt" and "possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world."

At Monday's event, Cameron said he is also excited by the potential to put things like medical records on blockchain and to record intellectual property rights using the technology. Estonia has already partnered with a company to offer blockchain-based medical records across the country.

'I want us to be a success specifically in fintech'

Former Tory Party leader Cameron said on Monday that he is "passionate about making sure London continues to be a successful tech hub."

He said: "I'm very proud of what we did in office to support Tech City. It was happening anyway but we got behind it, we worked with you, we tried to go through all the things that tech city needed to really take off, whether that was broadband speeds or available property or some of the big tech companies coming and locating here. I really want that to continue to be a success."

Blockchain Nic Carey Peter Smith David Cameron Bob WigleyFrom left, Blockchain's cofounders Nic Cary and Peter Smith, former Prime Minister David Cameron, and board advisor Bob Wigley.Tom Campbell/Blcokchain

He added: "I also want us to be a success specifically in fintech. There's a huge opportunity here in Britain, not just because of the proximity of our fin and our tech, whereas in America they're divided by thousands of miles and Trump voting states, but because I do think we have particular talents and abilities here in the UK. The City of London has always been a fantastic innovator and we need to be as good an innovator in digital as we have been in the analogue world."

As Prime Minister, Cameron appointed an official government fintech envoy and led trade missions overseas to promote UK startups. Cameron first met Blockchain (the company) on one of these missions.

Cameron's successors in government have been equally hot on fintech. City Minister Simon Kirby told BI recently that the government is "absolutely committed to fintech" and is organising a week-long series of events to promote British fintech in April. Chancellor Philip Hammond, who has already publically praised British fintech, and Bank of England governor Mark Carney, another advocate, will both speak at the event.

Cameron said on Monday: "It seems to me there is this massive potential of disruptive technology and insurgents and startups that can take on the jobs, investment, and prosperity of the future. It's so important we have some of those insurgent businesses right here in London and not just in the United States."

The former PM praised Blockchain, the company, as a potential future "unicorn" — a company valued at over $1 billion. Blockchain provides digital wallets that let people securely store the cryptocurrency bitcoin and also provide data analytics and a platform for developers. Former Merrill Lynch chairman Bob Wigley is a board advisor and former Barclays CEO Antony Jenkins sits on their board.

Blockchain employs 60 people across New York and London and had Europe's largest ever "Series A" funding round, $30 million (£24.1 million), in 2014. Cofounder and CEO Peter Smith said at Monday's event that it recently transacted $1 billion across its network in a 30-day period.

 Source: http://uk.businessinsider.com/david-cameron-on-blockchain-fintech-and-fighting-corruption-2017-2

Russian President Vladimir Putin Discusses Using Ethereum with Vitalik Buterin

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At the 2017 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin. Putin also spoke about Russia’s economic reform and the digital economy, while the central bank discussed bitcoin’s taxation and its own digital currency.

St Petersburg International Economic Forum

Russian President Vladimir Putin Discusses Using Ethereum with Vitalik Buterin
Vitalik Buterin speaking at the SPIEF

An annual event held since 1997, SPIEF is attended by business and finance leaders in Russia and from all around the world. It is “dedicated to the discussion of key economic issues facing Russia, emerging markets and the world in general,” states the official website of the President of Russia. The theme of this year’s forum, held from June 1 to June 3, is “In search of a new balance in the global economy.”

Buterin was a speaker in the session called “Blockchain – the birth of the new economy” and a panelist in the session called “The explosive impact of blockchain technology.” First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and Central Bank Deputy Governor Olga Skorobogatova were also panelists in the same session.

Skorobogatova confirmed during the event that the central bank is developing its own digital currency while drafting a proposal to consider bitcoin a digital asset which will be taxed as such. She also recently announced a joint pilot project between the central bank and the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC) to use blockchain technology for financial services.

Also at the event was former Russian Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin. He told RT that he sees the use of bitcoin expanding in the coming years.

Putin’s Meeting with Buterin

According to the Russian President’s official website, Putin met with Buterin on June 2. “The conversation was held following the President’s meeting with heads of major foreign companies and business associations,” the website states, adding that:

Mr Buterin described the opportunities for using the technologies he developed in Russia. The President supported the idea of establishing ties with possible Russian partners.

Buterin confirmed the discussion on Reddit, stating that “it was a brief conversation at the end of a private CEO meeting.”

Russia’s Economic Reform Plan and Digital Economy

Russian President Vladimir Putin Discusses Using Ethereum with Vitalik Buterin
Putin in a discussion at the SPIEF

Putin said in a different SPIEF session that Russia’s future lies in developing the digital economy. However, he did not have any detailed or finalized plans for the country’s economic reform to share.

The development of advanced technology or “hi-­tech” is being discussed within the EAEC, TASS reported. The First Deputy Prime Minister said at the aforementioned blockchain panel discussion that Putin “takes special interest” in hi-­tech and the digital economy. Some local publications reported that the hi-tech Putin was referring to includes blockchain and Bitcoin. Shuvalov said:

At first, other state leaders viewed it with suspicion, but now they realize that this is the answer to all challenges and they just have to be bolder.

Citing Putin’s understanding that hi-tech and the digital economy spur growth rates, Shuvalov added, “It is not an overstatement to say that the president is passionately fond of it.”

Below is the video of the panel discussion with Buterin (in Russian).

Source: Bitcoin.com

Vitalik Buterin Addresses the First Ever BlockChain India Summit Powered by CryptoCarbon in New Delhi 6 Dec 2016

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Vitalik Buterin, Founder and Inventor of Ethereum - the world’s first distributed ledger technology platform to take the technology behind bitcoin mainstream and applicable to almost every industry - arrived in India on 6 December 2016. Vitalik Buterin, the 21 year old distinguished Peter Thiel Scholar, was in Delhi, India to inaugurate India’s first ever Blockchain Summit sponsored by CryptoCarbon
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Vitalik Buterin Addresses the Block chain India Summit at Delhi
Addressing a gathering of an excited crowd at the December 6 2016 summit at Shangri La Hotel, comprising of 150 Tech enthusiasts from Microsoft, Wipro, ConsenSys, TCS, Accenture, Synechron, National Payments Corporation of India, and several of world's Bitcoin and Blockchain startups, Vitalik Buterin advocated Blockchain technology’s transformative potential to make Smart Contracts possible in fields such as agricultural markets, education, healthcare, Identity based transactions, Microfinance and Financial Inclusion. "I am excited to see the growing interest in Ethereum and blockchain technologies coming from India; the world is finally waking up to the great potential that the technology has, particularly in emerging markets, and I look forward to seeing developments with the technology grow in the months and years to come” - Vitalik Buterin.   The first ever Blockchain India Summit is timely as it coincides with the ruling BJP’s recent currency-ban fiasco and illuminates the power of decentralised Person to Person platforms like bitcoin and blockchain to sidestep the tradition of issuance and supply-control mechanics of fiat currency, and to counter the authoritative control of Central Banks and Governments.   Ms. Arifa Khan, the Conference Chair, welcoming Vitalik Buterin to India for the first time said, “it is a rare privilege to be in the midst of an inventor of the stature of Mr. Buterin, with not only an unparalleled mastery of the most exciting technology of our times - Blockchain - but also with a multi-dimensional understanding of business, economic, political, legal aspects of his invention. It is humbling to host, interact and learn from a genius of this magnitude in India, who is toast of town with central banks, regulators and governments around the world, and can dramatically transform the established ways of working of banking and financial system everywhere. We will extend every bit of cooperation Vitalik ever needs in India and other emerging markets to take Ethereum mainstream and to support his research efforts in solving cryptographic challenges.” Buterin is a keen nurturer of developer communities around the world, and focuses his time on mathematical advances in solving privacy and scalability issues of current blockchain protocols and and evangelising the work of his non-profit foundation ethereum around the world.  
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Subash George Manuel of Crypto Carbon & Vitalik Buterin of Etherum during the event
Mr. Buterin is the only known face in the world of Blockchain after the elusive and the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, to have captured the public imagination. His cryptocurrency ether is the second most popular after bitcoin and is currently valued close to $1 billion, after bitcoin’s $10 billion.   Mr. Buterin has overseen several ponderous decisions such as obtaining consensus from investors on effecting a hard fork in Ethereum’s Decentralised Autonomous Organisation (DAO). The hard fork, generally scoffed at by purists of blockchain, was administered for damage control by consensus of investors when the crypto fund found itself vulnerable to a $50 million theft by a hacker. Mr. Buterin displays giant intellectual capacity, remarkable maturity, acutely sharp intelligence to assess people and a multi-dimensional grasp of varied complexities of world economy and business - all pointers to a Nobel Prize in years and decades to come.   Answering a question from the audience on whether writing smart contracts can ever be made free of gas - the computational fuel required on ethereum to upload any smart contracts - Vitalik advocated some sort of transaction fees for sending blocks and also incentives for miners so as to prevent the protocol from being jammed by frivolous computational requests. Every economy has to have self-governing self-sustaining market rules, and crypto economy is no different. Answering question on how easy it is to create a new cryptocurrency in India, Vitalik said it is a matter of copying 50 lines of code, but the challenge is in building the value of the new token and a circular economy around its acceptance. The Blockchain India Summit was powered by CryptoCarbon - a new cryptocurrency behind loyalty rewards and Microsoft, the software giant which has introduced Microsoft Azure’s Blockchain as a Service platform to ride on the growth wave of Blockchain. CryptoCarbon is one of the first consumer-oriented crypto currencies, where issuance is directly proportionate to products and services available in return. Users can transfer CryptoCarbon, convert to BTC, cash (through eternal exchanges) or spend on premium features, products and services offered. The Indian bitcoin blockchain enthusiasts were over the moon to meet Vitalik and took unending selfies, which the inventor graciously and politely obliged. India is eagerly looking forward to more developments from Vitalik and Ethereum. See More photos below 

UK to spend £10m on cryptocurrency research

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Harriet Baldwin, Economic Secretary to the Treasury of UK, in a speech, that she delivered at the Alan Turing Institute for Data Science, has declared a £10million funding for cryptocurrency research. Baldwin also mentioned that the country was working hard to create the right regime for cryptocurrency businesses and to attract overseas investors to the UK. She also said that “the fact that we are committed to bringing digital currency exchanges into regulation has been welcomed by the industry, and it’s already resulted in digital currency businesses relocating to the UK.” Further, Baldwin gave the example of Circle, which is a Bitcoin services company, that has declared its intentions of opening an office in London from where it would work on its European expansion. The economic secretary rhetorically asked “Why the UK?” and then answered that the “Circle were very clear: it was because of our positive attitude to fintech and to digital currencies.” She said that the work was going on to ensure regulation of cryptocurrency businesses and that this fact has been warmly welcomed by the industry specialists with many businesses now relocating to the UK. In short, the economic secretary pitched UK as one of the best destinations for cryptocurrency businesses and also said that the government has recently launched a research initiative which will bring together the Research Councils, Alan Turing Institute and Digital Catapult with industry, in order to address the research opportunities and challenges for distributed ledger technology. Her words are like music to the ears of cryptocurrency industry as London has shown great potential to become the digital currency hotspot in recent times all thanks to the emergence of high-potential Bitcoin and blockchain startups. It should be highlighted that UK Chancellor George Osborne is also openly supporting cryptocurrency, in order to boost UK’s productivity. In short, we can conclude that the UK is seriously looking to conquer this field and ensure that it becomes a prime hub for digital currencies.
Source: http://www.newsbtc.com/2015/10/15/uk-to-spend-10m-to-support-fintech-research/

George Osborne Unveils UK Plans to Explore Bitcoin

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Chancellor George Osborne has announced a new initiative that will explore the potential role of cryptocurrencies in Britain's economy. Osborne has commissioned the Treasury to produce a programme of work on cryptocurrencies, examining their potential risks and benefits. The results, due to be published in the Autumn, could pave the way toward a new regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies in Britain. "These alternative payment systems are popular as they are quick, cheap and convenient [...] I want to see if we can make more use of them for the benefit of the UK economy," he said during his speech at the launch of Innovate Finance, formerly FinTech UK, a group that promotes the interests of the UK FinTech industry. Backed by the City of London Corporation and Canary Wharf Group, the trade organisation aims to be a hub for industry influencers, regulators, tech and talent.

Cementing Britain's leading role in finance

Speaking at the London conference, Osborne outlined a series of proposals that aim to foster financial innovation and establish the UK as a market leader in the FinTech sector. He said the key to the government's long term economic plan is "cementing Britain's position as the centre of global finance". Osborne explained:
"It's only by harnessing innovations in finance, alongside our existing world class knowledge and skills in financial services, that we'll ensure Britain's financial sector continues to meet the diverse needs of businesses and consumers, here and around the globe, and create the jobs and growth we all want to see in the future."
However, he was also keen to recognise the potential risks involved with new technologies like bitcoin: "Among other things, [the programme] will look at whether regulation of the sector is required, so that virtual currency businesses can continue to be set up in the UK, and people and businesses can use [cryptocurrencies] safely." Simon Hamblin, CEO of UK bitcoin, gold and sterling exchange Netagio, said: "Mr. Osborne's comments are very encouraging and we have long awaited some direction from the government and regulators." He went on to say it is an exciting time for those wishing to drive innovation in the financial services industry. "The UK's offshore jurisdictions are already strong supporters of alternative currencies and, by bringing together a common approach, this could position the UK as one of the leading centres for digital currency innovation," Hamblin added.

Chancellor purchases bitcoin

This morning, Osborne also attended a demonstration of a Robocoin ATM operated by Cointrader.net and purchased an undisclosed amount of bitcoin. According to spectators, the Chancellor greeted the demonstration with great enthusiasm. Hugh Halford-Thompson, head of UK operations at Cointrader.net, described the purchase as a "great step" towards bitcoin's political and regulatory acceptance.

A British BitLicense?

London is one of the biggest financial hubs in the world and is, by far, the biggest financial centre in Europe. The government's position on cryptocurrencies has been somewhat ambiguous, although the UK has managed to attract a number of bitcoin businesses. Besides HMRC's tax guidance, there has been little in the way of a comprehensive regulatory initiative. In June, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced a project dubbed Project Innovate with the aim of ensuring “positive developments", such as bitcoin, are supported in the region. A representative from the FCA said the regulatory agency has yet to determine its stance on digital currencies.

Bitcoin Regulation in the UK

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Eitan Jankelewitz is a technology lawyer at the law firm Sheridans. He provides commercial legal advice to all kinds of technology businesses, including some operating in the bitcoin economy. 

In this article, Jankelewitz explains how UK regulation applies to bitcoin and other digital currencies. He also describes the approach to compliance generally taken by UK businesses.

union-jack-300x185The UK, especially London, is considered a global centre for financial services and new technologies.

You might assume, therefore, that the UK would be a great adoptive home for bitcoin and other digital currencies. Digital currency is, after all, the ultimate example of a finance/technology hybrid. Well, you would be right.

The British public has shown keen interest in digital currencies – the London bitcoin meetup is possibly the biggest in the world and there are numerous other events and meetings being held in cities up and down the UK.

Britain is also home to some of the world’s most popular bitcoin products and services. Despite this, the UK’s government and regulators have been remarkably quiet on the subject of digital currencies, and have left the development and adoption of digital currencies largely unacknowledged.

There are three areas of regulation to consider when examining this subject: consumer protection; the prevention of money laundering, and taxation. Foreign regulations also have certain implications for those operating in the UK.

Consumer protection

In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is the regulator with responsibility for ensuring that financial services are provided in a way that protects consumers and maintains the integrity of the market. The FCA regulates businesses that provide financial services or promote financial services (whether retail or wholesale).

In the last year, a number of bitcoin businesses have approached the FCA seeking clarification on the legalities of operating bitcoin exchanges.

However the FCA has not offered any constructive guidance or comment on the regulation of digital currencies. In fact, the FCA has gone as far as stating it does not regulate digital currencies and has no intention of doing so. The result is that bitcoin businesses in the UK are not obliged to register with or be authorised by the FCA.

The UK has a well-established tradition of self-regulation. Despite the regulator's approach, a number of bitcoin businesses have told me that they act in accordance with FCA rules, even though they are not required to do so.

Without any formal guidance, businesses act on their own interpretation of what the rules ought to be. As a result, an unusual scenario has arisen: instead of regulators chasing after businesses and insisting on compliance, UK businesses are chasing after regulators and insisting on rules with which they can comply.

There was even one instance where, allegedly, the FCA, on discovering that a bitcoin business had managed to add itself to an FCA register, politely invited that business to de-register itself.

Prevention of money laundering

The prevention of money laundering is taken very seriously in the UK and indeed in many countries around the world.

In the UK, the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 set out who must assist the prevention of money laundering and provide steps on how this should be achieved. Customer due diligence is central to these regulations – businesses should know where money is coming from by identifying their customers.

The Money Laundering Regulations 2007 are enforced by a number of entities, principally the UK’s tax authority, the HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs), and the FCA, but also some others. For example, lawyers are obligated to conduct customer due diligence by the Law Society.

 

In the UK, however, there is no formal obligation to take any steps to prevent money laundering through dealings made in bitcoin. This is quite remarkable. Compare this to the position in the US, where businesses must comply with anti-money laundering regulations at a federal level and then essentially repeat this compliance in almost every other state.

Once again, UK businesses take regulation into their own hands. UK bitcoin businesses seem, for the most part, to all take some measure or another to try and identify their customers for the purposes of preventing money laundering.

It is fair to say that some businesses go above and beyond what would be required if their business was dealing with pounds sterling rather than bitcoin. The reason for this is simple: UK businesses don’t think that this status quo can be maintained for much longer.

If (or, indeed, when) UK bitcoin businesses are required to comply with anti-money laundering regulation, those businesses could be obligated to undertake customer due diligence on their entire existing customer base. This could be an overwhelming task for a company that has been in business for some years.

Businesses may eventually even be required to report all of their previous dealings as part of a suspicious activity report. It therefore makes much more sense to identify customers from the outset in order to be prepared for these requirements.

Taxation

Four or five months ago, after receiving a number of requests from bitcoin stakeholders about the VAT (value added tax) treatment of bitcoin, HMRC began to issue guidance in the form of a letter.

The guidance stated that bitcoin was to be treated as a single-purpose face-value voucher. This type of voucher is, as the name suggests, redeemable for just a single use. This means that at the time the voucher is bought, it is known whether or not VAT is chargeable on the goods or services for which the voucher can be redeemed. HMRC therefore charges VAT on the purchase of the voucher – they don’t wait around for the redemption.

If you know a little about bitcoin, you will know you can buy more than just one thing with it. It seems to me that someone at HMRC had simply misunderstood bitcoin, but the consequences were serious – anyone selling bitcoin or operating an exchange would have to charge VAT on the value of the bitcoin being sold. This meant that no UK exchange could be both compliant and competitive.

Along with a few others, I was lucky enough to be invited to HMRC to talk about this particular point. Following the meeting, HMRC agreed to withdraw this guidance and re-examine bitcoin to see how VAT should be applied to it.

For once UK businesses were happy to have no regulation. We were told that VAT would most likely be charged on bitcoin service charges, but not bitcoin itself. Therefore an exchange would have to charge VAT on its commission, but not on the bitcoins traded.

HMRC is continuing to consider how best to tax bitcoin and meetings with stakeholders are ongoing. I also understand that HMRC is considering all other aspects of taxation, not just VAT. Hopefully we will see some development in this area soon and a definitive position on how bitcoin businesses should account for tax.

Foreign Regulation

Just because there is so little regulation in the UK, it doesn’t mean that UK businesses aren’t affected by foreign laws. Regulations in the US have a habit of reaching beyond the borders of the 50 states.

In the US, operating a money transmission business is regulated by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) at a federal level, and then again at state level.

In order to be compliant throughout the US, money transmitters must comply with all sorts of customer due diligence obligations and maintain many expensive registrations in each state in which their services are available. Famously, on 18 March 2013, FinCEN extended the scope of this regulation to bitcoin exchanges and others buying and selling bitcoin or other digital currencies.

Unfortunately for UK businesses, this regulation has extraterritorial scope – it even applies to non-US businesses providing their services to US citizens.

Given the burden of complying with US regulation, most UK businesses simply close their doors to US citizens until they are ready to expand into the US market and have sufficient funds to undertake the compliance process. This involves geo-blocking US IP addresses, as well as any blocking any contact made through VPNs or TOR.

Conclusion

The lack of regulation in the UK has caused more problems than opportunities for bitcoin businesses.

Unable to be sure of what regulation is on the horizon and keen to avoid future liability, bitcoin businesses often find themselves taking more regulatory measures than regulated businesses.

On top of this is the biggest problem facing bitcoin in the UK – access to UK banking services. In short, there isn’t any. With the regulatory picture unclear, banks consider it too risky to offer bitcoin businesses a bank account.

In jurisdictions around the world, law makers and regulators are considering if and how to bring digital currencies under their regulatory frameworks.

Meanwhile the entrepreneurs, who can’t help but get started on their new businesses, are left second-guessing what form this new regulation will take and what effect it will have on their own particular business.

Until the inevitable question of regulation is settled, one way or another, digital currency businesses will be unable reach their true potential.

 

Source: http://www.coindesk.com/bitcoin-regulation-uk/