Britcoin? Bank of England and Treasury to explore central bank digital currency

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The prospect of a digital UK currency appeared to take another step forwards on Monday after Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak launched a joint project between the Treasury and the Bank of England to explore the potential of a central bank digital currency (CBDC)

Speaking at the Fintech Week conference on Monday, Sunak unveiled the creation of the new ‘taskforce’ alongside a CBDC engagement forum and a CBDC technology forum that have been created to engage technical experts and key stakeholders in the process of potentially establishing a CBDC.

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The taskforce will be co-chaired by the deputy governor of the Bank of England, Jon Cunliffe, and the Treasury’s director general of financial services, Katharine Braddick.

The Chancellor also said that in order to support private sector innovation, firms exploring technologies such as distributed ledger (DLT) to improve financial market infrastructure will have access to a new sandbox, while the Bank of England has also launched a new ‘omnibus’ account to allow access to innovative financial market infrastructure providers that can “support delivery of faster, cheaper, 24-hour wholesale payment and settlement using central bank money”.

“The steps I’ve outlined today, to boost growing fintechs, push the boundaries of digital finance and make our financial markets more efficient, will propel us forward. And if we can capture the extraordinary potential of technology, we’ll cement the UK’s position as the world’s pre-eminent financial centre”, Sunak said in a statement.

The taskforce forms part of a package of measures that the Treasury said are aiming to build on opportunities generated following Brexit, as well as to build on the UK’s “competitive advantage in fintech”.

Sunak also confirmed that the government will consult on changes to the UK’s stock market listing regime in order to provide “a further boost for innovative companies seeking to raise money in the UK”.

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