Rishi Sunak orders creation of UK government-backed NFT

Royal Mint will create the non-fungible token by the summer, ministers announce

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Thursday 14 April 2022 18:20
Comments
What are NFTs?

Rishi Sunak has ordered the Royal Mint to create a UK government-backed NFT (non-fungible token) that could be traded online.

The Chancellor has told the mint to issue the NFT by the summer as the government examines whether it could borrow money using blockchain technology.

Speaking at a financial technology conference in London on Monday, Mr Sunak's deputy and the economic cecretary to the Treasury John Glenn, said:

"I am announcing today that the Chancellor has asked the Royal Mint to create a non-fungible token – an NFT – to be issued by the Summer, an emblem of the forward-looking approach we are determined to take."

The Tory minister there would be "more details available very soon" about the project.

NFTs are unique units of digital data that use the same "blockchain" technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Records of who owns the NFT are stored in distributed databases across users’ computers.

The tokens have in recent years become used as a speculative asset and have been implicated in a number of scams, but their advocates claim they could usher in new forms of digital ownership and even economic models.

The best-known NFTs claim to give the bearer ownership over a unique picture of a cartoon ape, a series known as the “Bored Ape Yacht Club”.

Speaking at the Innovate Global Finance Summit 2022 on Monday, the economic secretary Mr Glenn the British government was “going to prioritise” blockchain technology and could even issue debt and borrow money using the approach.

"Unlike the EU and US, the UK has a small number of regulators, and central government sets the overall framework and can take decisive action. So, we can move very nimbly,” he said.

"And, trust me, we have a determined, unified, single-minded government that is going to prioritise this.

"For instance, we’ll be undertaking a programme of work to explore whether it’s possible to apply [distribued ledger technology] DLT to the debt issuance process.

"Could the UK one day issue a debt instrument using DLT? I don’t yet know the answer … but let’s find out.

“And we will lead by example. We are already effectively using crypto-technologies to make government more efficient.

“We are developing opportunities to use distributed ledger technology for Customs and International Trade, to ease the import of goods, and we will continue to support further opportunities to deploy that technology.

"Finally, I am announcing today that the Chancellor has asked the Royal Mint to create a non-fungible token – an NFT… to be issued by the Summer, an emblem of the forward-looking approach we are determined to take… and there will be more details available very soon."

In a statement a spokesperson for HM Treasury said: “This decision shows the the forward-looking approach we are determined to take towards cryptoassets in the UK.”

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