As bitcoin continues to climb to new heights, there are reports that the UK and the EU are going to introduce tougher regulations for the digital currency.
The bitcoin price sits at comfortably over $11,000 (£8,200) at the time of writing. This means that it has enjoyed a rise of more than 1,000% this year.
In fact, it has been calculated that all of the bitcoins in circulation are now worth $190 billion (£141 billion). This makes them worth more than the GDP of New Zealand, as well as more than the combined fortunes of The Queen, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
As for the proposed upcoming regulations, it has been suggested that it is the fear of bitcoin being used for money laundering and tax evasion that is behind this move. Of course, some people associate bitcoin with crime unfairly, largely on the back of the WannaCry and Petya ransomware threats in which hackers demanded to be paid in bitcoins, while the anonymous nature of trading has raised genuine concerns around the world.
The UK Treasury is said to be planning to regulate all of the different cryptocurrencies around, to make sure that they follow the latest anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financial legislation.
This means that anyone trading the coins will need to reveal their identities. This will do away once and for all with the anonymity that has been a big part of bitcoin until now. Some people feel that this anonymity has attracted people engaged in drug dealing and other criminal activity to the currency.
The overall idea will mean that everyone across the EU will have due diligence carried out on them whenever they join up. Online trading platforms will also be obliged to report any suspicious transactions to authorities.
Changes Expected in 2018
No exact date has been given for this change but it is expected to come into force at some point in 2018. Labour MP John Mann is one of the UK politicians behind this move. The member of the House of Commons Treasury select committee asked MPs to consider the regulation of digital currencies.
Stephen Barclay, who is the economic secretary to the Treasury replied in a written answer that the British government is “currently negotiating amendments to the anti-money laundering directive” that would add virtual currencies to the current legislation around money laundering and counter-terrorism regulations. He said that that the EU level negotiations should be completed “in late 2017 or early 2018”.
While some financial industry figures have called out bitcoin for the possibility it offers of committing fraud, not everyone feels as strongly about it. Even Sir Jon Cunliffe, who is deputy governor of the Bank of England, said recently that the digital currency isn’t big enough to be a threat to the overall global economy.
Word of the proposed new regulations appeared to cause a small fall in the price of bitcoin, but it doesn’t seem to have caused any great concern in the market to date.