July 12, 2023

Crypto Regulations in the United Kingdom: A Comprehensive Analysis

Crypto Regulations in the United Kingdom: A Comprehensive Analysis
  • The Financial Services and Markets Act 2023 represents a substantial shift in UK's crypto regulation, establishing comprehensive oversight and defining the range of digital assets.
  • The Act successfully strikes a balance between security and innovation, emphasizing clarity, consumer protection, and consistent growth in the rapidly expanding UK crypto market.
  • On the flip side, the Act could also potentially stifle innovation and present compliance challenges in the rapidly evolving crypto industry.

On June 29, 2023, a key event for UK's cryptocurrency sector took place. The Financial Services and Markets Act 2023, or FSMA 2023 for short, was officially approved by King Charles.

This momentous event signified a dramatic shift in the status of crypto trading, moving it from the fringes into the mainstream as a regulated financial activity in the UK. This monumental change was akin to the dawn of a new era, officially placing crypto trading under the UK's regulatory oversight.

Why is this such a big deal? Well, it's because this Act isn't just another piece of legislation. It's a whole lot more. It's a comprehensive blueprint charting out the future course for the crypto industry in the United Kingdom. 

And the real cherry on top, according to local crypto experts, is the establishment of new objectives for the heavyweight regulatory bodies - the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).

With the stage set on the importance of FSMA 2023, let's shift our focus toward the scale of the UK's crypto industry. By grasping the size and potential of this burgeoning sector, we can better comprehend why this Act stands to have such a profound impact. 

The UK Crypto Industry: A Cursory Health Check

Reports published in April 2023 predict the global crypto market to gross nearly US$38 billion in revenue in 2023. If achieved, it will be a 105% growth year-over-year. 

The United Kingdom is the fastest-growing among the top five markets in the crypto space, including the United States, Germany, Japan, and Canada. 

Studies suggest that the United Kingdom's crypto market grew by more than 450% between 2021 and 2023. The jump in market size exceeds the United States or Switzerland by significant margins. The United States crypto market grew by 120% during the same period, while Switzerland registered a growth of 80%. 

Between 2022 and 2023, the United Kingdom's crypto market size grew from US$0.84 billion to US$1.89 billion, a growth of more than 125%. When it comes to the volume of individual users, the number is more than 3 million. 

From all possible perspectives, cryptocurrencies occupy a significant part of the United Kingdom’s financial market landscape. And therefore, any change or shift in the regulatory provisions is met with sincere analysis, both from the providers and consumers. 

Rules and Regulations Governing the Crypto Market in the United Kingdom

The most crucial piece of regulation that would have a decisive bearing on the entire crypto market in the United Kingdom is the Financial Services and Markets Act 2023. 

The implications of this groundbreaking initiative are poised to fundamentally reshape the UK's financial landscape, promising to redefine not only the country's macroeconomic scene and business environment but also its interplay with the global financial order. And for the burgeoning cryptocurrency industry, the implications could be profound.

A crucial part of this initiative will be restructuring the retained EU law (REUL), creating a new, comprehensive framework. This could potentially include digital asset regulations, which would directly impact the operation of cryptocurrencies in the UK, bringing about a regulatory paradigm shift.

The Act also seeks to recalibrate the UK's legislative structure, particularly the UK Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation (MiFIR), using insights gathered from the HM Treasury’s Wholesale Markets Review. In the dynamic world of digital currencies, such a recasting of rules might prove pivotal. It isn't just about creating rules but about crafting an efficient, responsive system that truly aligns with the nation's financial needs, including those of the crypto markets.

Moreover, it will establish a robust framework for identifying and designating critical third parties. In the context of cryptocurrencies, this might involve regulatory considerations for crypto exchanges, wallet providers, and more, which are crucial to secure and facilitate transactions on the blockchain.

A key component of this transformation is the comprehensive reform of the financial promotion regime. This reform could influence how cryptocurrency products and services are marketed and offered to the public, possibly creating a more conducive environment for crypto-based innovation and growth.

What's potentially even more compelling for the crypto industry is the new mandate set for the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) and PRA (Prudential Regulation Authority). With new objectives outlined, these regulatory bodies may have an expanded role in overseeing the evolving crypto market, ensuring it operates transparently, fairly, and in the best interests of investors.

The scope of this regulation is indeed vast, with each facet potentially impacting the cryptocurrency industry. This represents a bold stride towards a comprehensive and updated financial landscape in the UK. 

FSMA 2023 Implications for Crypto Assets

The FSMA brought in stablecoins or digital settlement assets, as referred to them in the bill, within the regulatory scope and initiated them for use as a recognized payment means.

Notably, the bill achieved two significant things. While it proposed regulating crypto assets, it also promoted them. 

The Proposed Regulation of Crypto Assets 

The UK's HM Treasury is pursuing four well-defined policy objectives in its mission to regulate crypto assets. 

First, it aims to foster growth, innovation, and competition in the domestic market. Second, it aspires to enable consumers to make well-informed decisions by comprehending the associated risks. Third, the initiative seeks to safeguard the financial stability of the UK market. And finally, it's dedicated to protecting the integrity of the UK market.

In pursuit of these goals, the UK government plans to keep a vigilant eye on the evolving technologies, assessing potential risks on a case-by-case basis. They are committed to ensuring the regulations do not stifle the industry's innovative potential, preferring to intervene where the risks and opportunities are most pronounced.

Evolving Framework and Phased Implementation

Recognizing the dynamic nature of digital assets, the UK government intends to create a regulatory framework that can accommodate the rapidly developing crypto market. The process of regulating crypto assets will be phased, with the first stage already in effect since January 2022 under the AML/CFT registration regime.

This regime, aligning with the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Transfer of Funds Regulations (MLR) 2017, applies to providers offering crypto asset exchange and custody wallet services in the country.

Expanded Regulatory Coverage

Under the new law, the government plans to extend regulatory oversight to crypto asset activities. 

The FCA will ensure that promotions relating to crypto assets are clear, fair, and not misleading. Further, the government plans to regulate fiat-backed stablecoins for payments. 

The second phase will introduce a broader regulatory regime encompassing trading, investment, and other high-risk areas.

Defining Crypto Assets and Compliance

The FSM Act provides a comprehensive definition of crypto assets, facilitating legal recognition and regulatory compliance. It encompasses a broad spectrum of digital assets, including exchange tokens, utility tokens, NFTs, stablecoins, and more. 

Following the FSMA's introduction, crypto asset firms are now expected to adhere to the same financial crime standards applicable to traditional financial service activities such as banks.

Issuance, Trading, and Promotion

The UK government also plans to establish an issuance and disclosure regime for crypto assets and plans to treat the public offers of crypto assets akin to security offerings in principle. And trading platforms for crypto assets will be subject to consumer protection, operational resilience, and data reporting requirements.

Promotions of crypto assets will be tightly controlled, too. Only an authorized person can communicate the promotion or approve it if communicated by an unauthorized person. Additional promotional aspects include risk warning statements, cooling-off periods for first-time investors, and record-keeping requirements.

In essence, the FSMA serves as a comprehensive regulatory mechanism to ensure the crypto asset landscape in the UK is secure and efficient and promotes innovation.

The UK Regulations from a Global Perspective

Given their timing and nature of enforcement, it is quite natural to draw parallels between the FSMA and MiCA in the EU.

With the European Parliament’s approval of the Markets in Crypto Assets regulation, the European Union countries are set to introduce structural governance practices to crypto firms. MiCA, apart from looking at crypto assets from AML/CFT perspectives, also aims to prevent panic selling of crypto assets that could lead to sharp falls in prices and a potential domino effect on other markets.

Recognizing the need for similar measures, the UK's FSMA is also striving to carve out a clear and comprehensive regulatory landscape in the realm of crypto assets. Like the MiCA, the FSMA fosters a sense of clarity and transparency. 

Both frameworks understand the increasing importance of stablecoins in the digital asset universe and aim to bring them under regulatory oversight.

Moreover, the areas of regulation don't stop at stablecoins for either of these frameworks. Both the FSMA and the MiCA have set their sights on a wider array of crypto activities. This includes the regulation of exchange tokens and utility tokens, as well as custody activities, trading venue operations, and issuance and intermediation services.

Also, akin to the HM Treasury, the EU aims to set up a clearly defined authorization route for firms to safeguard them from AML/CFT activities.

However, there are areas of divergence between the two regulatory frameworks. The MiCA, for instance, is more comprehensive than the FSMA, as its purview extends to non-fiat-backed stablecoins, broadening the regulatory net and allowing for more comprehensive crypto market oversight.

Another distinct difference lies in the domains of advice and portfolio management. While the MiCA has sought to regulate these areas, the UK's legislative approach, at present, has not ventured into these territories.

Both MiCA and FSMA are at nascent stages in their life cycle. Therefore, it would be premature to comment on the impact they would have on the crypto market. However, legislations often adopt best practices from each other, and the same is expected to happen in the cases of the MiCA in the EU and FSMA in the UK. Crypto regulations in the UK will likely learn from similar use cases around the world and enrich themselves with available results.

As the world of crypto-assets continues to evolve and mature, regulatory frameworks such as the FSMA and the MiCA will play a crucial role in shaping the sector's trajectory. Their shared ambitions and unique divergences hint at an exciting, dynamic future for crypto asset regulation.

Conclusion Thoughts

As the digital frontier continues to expand, the United Kingdom is taking a decisive step into the future with the Financial Services and Markets Act 2023. With its bold vision, the Act reshapes the landscape of the crypto industry, nurturing an environment of transparency, innovation, and security.

While setting a new benchmark for global regulatory practices, it also opens the door to boundless opportunities. By placing the sector under regulatory oversight, the Act invites trust and stability, strengthening the relationship between investors and the crypto world.

However, it's not a unilateral growth story. With this regulation, the UK has also taken on the mammoth task of constantly evolving with an industry known for its development speed. The Act's success will greatly rely on the regulators' ability to stay one step ahead, protecting investors while fostering innovation.

The interplay between the UK's FSMA 2023 and the EU's MiCA regulation is also a space to watch, potentially offering fascinating insights into harmonizing regulatory frameworks in a global context. As the ripple effects of the FSMA 2023 start to surface, stakeholders worldwide will be keenly watching the UK for lessons and precedents.

This legislation indeed signifies a new era, not only for the UK but for global crypto regulations as well. With it, the UK has boldly stepped into unchartered territory, setting the stage for what could be the dawn of a new epoch in the crypto universe. The world watches as the UK shapes its crypto destiny, wielding the double-edged sword of opportunity and responsibility.


Shyft Network powers trust on the blockchain and economies of trust. It is a public protocol designed to drive data discoverability and compliance into blockchain while preserving privacy and sovereignty. SHFT is its native token and fuel of the network.

Shyft Network facilitates the transfer of verifiable data between centralized and decentralized ecosystems. It sets the highest crypto compliance standard and provides the only frictionless Crypto Travel Rule compliance solution while ensuring user data is protected.

Visit our website to read more, and follow us on Twitter, GitHub, LinkedIn, Telegram, Medium, and YouTube. Sign up for our newsletter to keep up-to-date on all things privacy and compliance.