UK aims to cash in as a world Bitcoin capital
Britain has taken a significant step towards becoming a global bitcoin hub as the government announced it would regulate digital currencies for the first time by applying anti-money laundering rules to exchanges.
Already the centre of the €4.6 trillion-a-day market for traditional currencies, the UK is fast emerging as a centre for digital currencies too, cementing its place as European's financial technology, or "FinTech", capital.
Britain's Treasury said the new regulation would support innovation and prevent criminal use of digital currencies. The proposals will be consulted on early in the next parliament.
Tom Robinson, co-founder of Elliptic, the world's first bitcoin insurance vault in London, and a board member of the UK Digital Currency Association, said the new regulation effectively served as a "stamp of approval" from the government.
"It provides enough oversight to provide legitimacy without stifling innovation," he said. "I think it is a good balance between on the one hand the US and specifically New York, which I think have gone too far, and what a lot of countries are doing which is just completely ignoring it."
The potential for digital currencies to be used for illicit financial transactions has led many to steer clear. They were dubbed the "Wild West" of finance by US regulators last year, since they are not backed by a central bank or government like conventional money.
But bitcoin's supporters are numerous, and say that the technology behind it could be revolutionary. Last week Reuters revealed that IBM is considering adopting the technology to create a digital cash and payment system for major currencies.