UK Leadership Race: Front-Runner Rishi Sunak Known for Crypto Advocacy

Updated by Geraint Price
In Brief
  • Rishi Sunak, the front-runner in the race to become Britain’s next PM, is a known advocate for cryptocurrency.
  • Besides cryptocurrency, the former Chancellor is also a big proponent of Central Bank Digital Currencies.
  • Rishi Sunak has also been a leader in global cooperation, regulation, and financial harmonization.
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Rishi Sunak, the current front-runner in the race to become the U.K.’s next prime minister, is a well-known proponent of cryptocurrency.

Sunak won the second round of the contest – which was triggered by the resignation of incumbent Boris Johnson last week – with 101 votes to his name. His nearest rival is Penny Mordaunt with 83 votes, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has 64 votes.

Should Sunak succeed Johnson as the U.K.’s next prime minister, his appointment would not necessarily be good news for individual financial freedom. Besides being a proponent of the cryptocurrency sector, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer is also known to be an advocate for Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs).

While the former seeks to decentralize and democratize finance, critics of the latter point out that programmable money such as CBDCs can be used to centralize financial control.

Sunak for PM and crypto

In April, Sunak, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, set out his ambition “to make the U.K. a global hub for crypto asset technology.” As part of that drive, Sunak proposed that stablecoins should become a recognized form of payment within the country. The Chancellor went on to ask the Royal Mint to create “an NFT [non-fungible token] for Britain.”

Announcing the policy agenda at the time, the Chancellor said: “It’s my ambition to make the U.K. a global hub for crypto asset technology, and the measures we’ve outlined today will help to ensure firms can invest, innovate and scale up in this country.”

In June, Tether announced that it would launch GBPT, a pound-pegged stablecoin for the U.K. market.

Sunak for CBDCs

During the U.K.’s Presidency of the G7 in Oct 2021, Sunak launched “a set of public policy principles for retail Central Bank Digital Currencies.” 

At that time, Sunak was quick to point out that, “The decision on whether to launch a central bank digital currency is for each country to make and no G7 jurisdiction has yet to make that choice.”

Even so, in April 2021, Sunak instructed the Treasury and the Bank of England to work together to coordinate on the exploration and feasibility of a potential U.K. CBDC.

The consequences of CBDCs could yet prove disastrous for individual freedoms and liberties. In June 2021, Tom Mutton, a director of the Bank of England, spoke freely on the matter.

“There could be some socially beneficial outcomes from that [programming money], preventing activity which is seen to be socially harmful in some way. But at the same time it could be a restriction on people’s freedoms,” said Mutton.

Those who fear the potential of CBDCs to bring about social credit systems may therefore have concerns about a Sunak premiership.

Sunak’s global outlook

Through his approach to CBDCs and climate reform, Rishi Sunak has demonstrated a global outlook in his politics. Through the G7 and 136 nation-state members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Sunak pushed to create a minimum global corporation tax rate of 15%

Oxford-educated Sunak is married to fashion designer Akshata Murthy, the daughter of the Indian IT billionaire Sudha Murthy. Sudha Murthy is the founder of Infosys, a member of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI). 

On Thursday, the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) called for a global set of rules to regulate international crypto firms. 

Should Sunak triumph in the U.K. leadership race, the FCA seems certain to find a sympathetic prime minister residing at Number 10 Downing Street.

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