I barely know anything about Rishi Sunak’s NFT, although we can speculate it’ll likely be sold as a digital asset through a version of the Royal Mint’s online shop, much like its other coins and collectables. How the NFT will actually look, or work in practice, though, remains shrouded in mystery. We also know nothing about what rights those who buy into the scheme should expect to have. While it could be nothing short of another gimmick from a chancellor whose entire life, at this point, comes across as an elaborate photo-op, what’s absolutely certain is that cryptoassets of this kind are highly lucrative.
Put this together with the fact the announcement came out of nowhere. Indeed, there were no mentions of NFTs in the government’s 40-page consultation document on regulating cryptoassets launched in July 2021, nor in the government’s 46-page response released this week. Cynics among us may, therefore, suggest Sunak might be reaching for ways to plug the widening hole in the UK public finances, or even fund the £4.3bn in fraudulent COVID-19 loans the Treasury wrote off in February. The likelier explanation is that, when it comes to publicity stunts, the chancellor just can’t help himself.(see his charlatan boss Johnsons)
While there might be a lot of intriguing notes in the wider package, including a commitment to launch a stablecoin in the UK, this NFT line has overshadowed the lot. Sure, many of the measures are vague and might not lead to anything, but setting up forums and advisory groups, at least, will give the government a chance to get a grip on what’s fast becoming a runaway train. The CryptoSprint and Cryptoasset Engagement Group, in particular, are key to this process, given the UK currently has no regulatory regime in place and likely won’t for a number of years. This makes Sunak’s decision to drop a fully-fledged, government-backed NFT in just a matter of weeks all the more bizarre.
Far from this ‘cherry on the icing’ serving as an emblem of the UK’s “forward-looking approach”, it’s more akin to lobbing a grenade into a fireworks factory. For all the important work the Treasury might accomplish on setting the direction of travel on cryptoasset regulation, Sunak has shredded it all with what his imminent NFT might come to represent.