Cryptocurrency Regulatory Developments: EU and UK Perspectives, and Hong Kong’s Crypto Evolution


Cryptocurrencies have emerged as a disruptive force in the financial world, challenging traditional regulatory frameworks. As their popularity surges, regulators worldwide grapple with defining their legal status and implementing oversight measures. This evolving landscape of cryptocurrency regulation reflects the tension between innovation and the need for consumer protection and market stability.

EU’s Crypto Regulation: Euro Transactions Await Boost as UK Accelerates Regulatory Agenda

The European Union’s crypto asset rules, in place since 2023 and fully active by the end of this year, haven’t yet boosted euro-based crypto transactions, says the bloc’s securities regulator. According to the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the announcement of the Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) rules hasn’t affected euro volumes for now, but they might drive growth once fully enforced in 2024, aiming to safeguard investors. The EU, comprising 27 nations, was among the first to introduce thorough regulations for crypto assets through the MiCA law, covering crypto assets and stablecoins, with stablecoin rules becoming active six months later. Globally, fiat-to-crypto trading dropped from 30% in 2021 to 20% in 2023 due to the crypto winter, but the market has since bounced back, partly due to the popularity of stablecoins, which are digital assets linked to national currencies. The report highlights that about 80% of transactions entering or exiting the crypto space involve the U.S. dollar or the South Korean won, while the euro’s role remains minor at 10%, unchanged since MiCA’s announcement. Stablecoins make up over 60% of all crypto transactions, as per ESMA. Additionally, roughly 10 exchanges handle around 90% of trades, with Binance leading the pack, responsible for nearly half of global trading volumes.

Bim Afolami, the UK’s Economic Secretary, officially confirmed that the UK will welcome new legal aspects regarding stablecoins, as well as regulations for staking, exchanges, and custody, with the expectation of having them in place by June or July this year. The Conservative-led government aims to position the UK as a global center for crypto and took steps last year to regulate crypto and stablecoins as financial activities.

Afolami disclosed this information at the Innovate Finance Global Summit, highlighting the government’s swift efforts to finalize the regulatory framework. Once enacted, various crypto activities, such as operating exchanges and custody of assets, will fall under regulatory oversight for the first time.

The UK passed the financial markets bill in 2023 which led the basis of regulation of stablecoins and crypto-currency activities. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Bank of England (BoE) emerge as the regulatory bodies standing forward to develop a stablecoins regime by considering public opinions with the BoE being responsible for the surveillance of all the major stablecoin providers and the FCA being responsible for the whole crypto-sphere.

Afolami previously hinted at forthcoming stablecoin legislation in February, aiming to accomplish it within six months.

The Conservative government’s ambition to establish the UK as a crypto hub has prompted consultations on crypto regulation.

Hong Kong’s Crypto Evolution: CEO Criticizes Regulations While ETF Approvals Signal Advancement

The CEO of one of Hong Kong’s two licensed cryptocurrency exchanges criticized the city’s new approach to regulating digital asset trading, fearing it could hinder access for global clients. Hong Kong’s recent regulations required exchanges to seek regulatory approval by February, with 24 companies applying for licenses. Livio Weng, CEO of HashKey Exchange, expressed concerns that these regulations might limit access for overseas investors, prompting their decision to launch an exchange licensed in Bermuda. This move underscores doubts about the sustainability of operating under Hong Kong’s new crypto standards. Despite this, the city remains a significant hub for crypto trading, with residents engaging in substantial trades despite regulatory challenges. The rules now mandate exchanges to serve clients who pass know-your-customer checks and have funds in local or certain overseas bank accounts. Weng advocated for broader access for overseas investors to sustain the market. While some companies seek local licenses, others, like HashKey, opt to establish overseas operations. However, obtaining a license in Hong Kong remains attractive due to its proximity to China and its reputable regulatory framework. Lawmakers and industry insiders anticipate a limited number of licenses being granted, with the initial approvals holding significant value. The process of obtaining a license involves substantial costs, with crypto groups paying hefty fees for legal advice and regulatory compliance assessments. Despite the expenses, Hong Kong aims to build a comprehensive ecosystem beyond exchanges, attracting market participants like market makers and tech developers.

Hong Kong’s recent conditional approvals for asset managers to launch spot Bitcoin and Ether exchange-traded funds (ETFs) represent a significant milestone in the city’s quest to establish itself as a leading digital asset hub. Interestingly, this technological advancement is not only responsible for Bitcoin’s price surge but also serves to inject confidence back into the entire Crypto market. As Hong Kong pours efforts into rejuvenating its financial landscape through a variety of endeavors, including the implementation of a set of crypto industry-tailored regulations towards the end of last year, the recent asset approvals demonstrate the city’s dedication to incorporating innovation and creating an appropriate environment for cryptos.

The approval of these ETFs shows that Hong Kong is ready to keep up there with other big financial players like Singapore and Dubai, who are also on the lookout for crypto-based businesses and investments. Through this innovative offering, asset managers in Hong Kong are now able to offer spot crypto ETFs in Bitcoin and Ether, which are in demand, to cater to the growing need for a variety of investment opportunities in the digital asset space and also strengthen Hong Kong’s position as a modern financial hub. Notably, the approved ETFs will utilize an in-kind subscription and redemption mechanism, contrasting with the cash redemption model prevalent in the US. This alternative approach is expected to streamline processes and potentially reduce costs, enhancing the appeal of Hong Kong’s ETF offerings to investors.


In conclusion, navigating the regulatory landscape of cryptocurrencies remains a complex endeavor, as governments strive to strike a balance between fostering innovation and safeguarding investors, the need for clear, comprehensive regulatory frameworks becomes increasingly apparent.

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