Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase is opening new offices in Dublin as part of its contingency planning for a hard Brexit.
The company, one of the largest members of the blockchain ecosystem, said that London would remain its European headquarters, but that Dublin’s EU membership, as well as its English-speaking workforce and diverse technology talent pool, made it the “clear choice” for a second European outpost.
“To begin with, we’re housing a significant support team there, and we’re looking to capitalize on the talent pool that’s available to us in Ireland and hire other folks,” Coinbase UK CEO Zeeshan Feroz said.
“It is also a plan B for Brexit. As we plan for all eventualities, it’s important that we continue servicing our customers across Europe, and Ireland would be our preferred choice there if it comes to it,” Feroz added.
Businesses that purely operate within the cryptocurrency sector might not be particularly affected by Brexit, but many of the biggest cryptocurrency companies have substantial operations that overlap with the conventional financial sector, Feroz said.
“Coinbase and a few other crypto businesses are essentially two businesses: They are a regulated financial service provider — we have an e-money license with the FCA [British Financial Conduct Authority] — and on the other half they provide crypto services. And clearly as a regulated financial institution, if we don’t have access to passporting, we have to look for alternatives,” he said.
The news of yet another business preparing to shift operations out of the UK could come as a blow to the government.
The potential loss of a leading light of the blockchain sector could hit particularly hard, with the traditional financial industry’s problems with Brexit well-established.
British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has staked his hopes on the sector to solve the issue of the Irish border, telling the Conservative party conference that “there is technology becoming available” to solve the issue.
“I don’t claim to be an expert on it, but the most obvious technology is blockchain,” Hammond said.
Feroz expressed some hope that Brexit could make the UK more appealing to pure crypto companies, which did not need to do business with the rest of the world through the traditional financial system.
“I am of the view today that there is an opportunity for Britain post-Brexit to perhaps take the lead [in offering] balanced regulation” for the sector, he said.
“In general, and outside of Brexit, I think crypto should be regulated as a service,” he added. “There’s businesses out there like ours that handle billions of dollars or pounds every day.”
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