The UK Treasury has said no taxpayers were left out of pocket after the government’s failed attempt to launch a non-fungible token for the nation.
Then-chancellor Rishi Sunak first ordered the NFT for Britain to be created in April 2022 as part of plans to position the country as a world-leading hub for crypto technology.
After months of silence on where the project stood, news that the plans had been dropped was quietly released in March 2023 in a response to a parliamentary question from Treasury Committee chair Harriett Baldwin.
Critics including Tulip Siddiq, the shadow City minister, had slammed the government for ploughing resources into a “vanity project” during a cost-of-living crisis. A year after the announcement, no technical or operational notes on what a token could look like had been published.
In October 2022, the Royal Mint told Financial News that plans for a state-backed NFT were still in motion, but declined to provide costings.
However, in response to a new Freedom of Information Act request from FN, the Treasury confirmed that taxpayers were not on the hook.
“The Royal Mint operates as a commercial business and led on the development of this proposition,” the Treasury said. “No taxpayer money has been directly used to fund the project. Any cost associated with developing the project was met entirely out of the Royal Mint’s own revenues.”
FN’s request shows that in June, just two months after Sunak’s rallying call, the Royal Mint had delayed the project following advice. Details on where the advice came from, were redacted in meeting minutes provided to FN.
The Treasury declined to provide any further details about cost-benefit analyses or full minutes of any meetings discussing the plans, citing exemptions around commercial interests and data protection in the act.
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The price of many NFTs, including the most famous collection, the Bored Ape Yacht Club, has fallen dramatically since the plans for a UK NFT were originally revealed.
Baldwin said at the time her group of MPs had “not yet seen a lot of evidence that our constituents should be putting their money in these speculative tokens unless they are prepared to lose all their money”.
City minister Andrew Griffith said the idea would be kept “under review”.
At the time of writing, the Royal Mint’s website still had a page for potential investors to register for news and updates on the NFT for Britain.
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