By Bob Lyddon – 4 minute read
THE BANK of England’s project – or is it Rishi Sunak’s? – to create a UK-cryptocurrency called Britcoin is controlled by the digital payment industry. True to form it promises to impose on the UK yet more failed tools and techniques from the EU: not surprising since the project committees are heavily populated with figures associated with the EU’s Single Euro Payments Area and the data format that it uses, called ISO20022 XML.
Irritatingly, when something of benefit to UK consumers and businesses is available, the digital payments industry – assisted by the Payment Systems Regulator – kills it.
Britcoin – the UK-crypto project
The Bank of England has established two committees, or Forums, to push Britcoin forward, and they are heavily populated with members of the Visa and Mastercard ecosystems and by US Big Tech, who include ‘payment industry’ figures bound up with EU projects.
This is a democratic outrage: a rubber-stamping exercise carried out by the digital payments industry to further its own interests. Everyone is strongly represented except the UK’s consumers and businesses: we have well-used, nomenklatura figures with ‘portfolio careers’ to speak for us. 
The extent of this outrage is laid out in our recent paper entitled ‘CAPTURE – BigTech and Digital Payment Giants dominate the committees evaluating the replacement of physical cash with ‘Britcoin’ – a UK ‘Central Bank Digital Currency’’.
Britcoin is a carbon copy of the European Central Bank’s Digital Euro project. The ECB implausibly claims a digital euro would ‘provide an anchor of stability for our money in the digital age’. Has it looked at the price of FTX lately? But then ‘stability’ is the new buzzword, replacing last month’s ‘financial inclusion’, now that Wild-West crypto has crashed in value. The business case for Central Bank crypto is flexible enough to meet the needs of the moment.
Imposition of EU payment data format
The digital payments industry has already succeeded in getting the usage in the UK of the EU’s payment data format past the planning stage. The Bank of England’s ‘RTGS Renewal’ project will cause ISO20022 XML to be adopted in the CHAPS system. After that it will be adopted for the BACS and Faster Payments systems within the digital payment industry’s ‘New Payments Architecture’.
International Standards Organization 20022 XML is a book of messages with fields and options for their content, expressed in Extensible Markup Language (XML) and contemplated for global usage for both domestic and cross-border payments. However, its first (and so far only significant) implementation was for the Single Euro Payments Area schemes in 2008, and it was then imposed by law within the Single Euro Payments Area by the SEPA Migration End Date Regulation 260/2012 of 14 March 2012.
Why did it have to be imposed? Because businesses and consumers were not being co-operative and adopting it voluntarily. ISO20022 XML ought to come with a sub-title of ‘Never willingly purchased’.
The Bank of England is being forced to adopt it for CHAPS by the plan of SWIFT (the banks’ payment messaging co-operative, based in Brussels) to shut off usage of the data format CHAPS uses now. It’s coercion all the way in the digital payments world.
However, and despite one of the main salespoints of ISO20022 being ease-of-use, its adoption for the Eurozone’s TARGET2 system has had to be postponed multiple times, most recently until March 2023. As a result, SWIFT’s migration will not not begin until then either. The Bank of England’s project timeline is thus determined by Eurozone decision-making and by Eurozone project management skills. This is completely unnecessary and the question has to be asked, WHY?
The facts undermine another of the salespoints of ISO20022 played towards the UK, that everyone else is using it so we have to fall into line. Everyone else is not using it and it is already 20-years-old – that’s older than Facebook (2004), Twitter (2006), Airbnb (2008) and Uber (2009). That is a long time for a digital product to be sitting on the shelf.
Digital payments industry frustrates beneficial EU law-giving
There is one exception to the digital payments industry’s love affair with the EU: it’s when its law-giving might hit them in the pocket. In 2015 an EU Regulation was passed – and such an instrument was directly applicable in UK law – to ensure that businesses accepting card payments received 99.8% of the sale’s face value for a debit card payment and 99.7% for a credit card payment. That will come as a surprise to the average small business which has to make do with between 92% and 97% of the face value. Thanks to the combined wisdom of the digital payments industry operating through a nexus of trade bodies, advisory boards, lobbying groups and even panels convened by the Payment Systems Regulator itself, this Interchange Fee Regulation 2015/751 of 29th April 2015 may as well not exist. The impact of applicable law has been nullified by ‘the industry’ when it does not suit their interests.
Payments – a vital artery of UK economic life – is controlled by the value-swallowing digital payments industry, whose allegiance is to failed EU tools and techniques. Britcoin would extend this control to cash. The UK’s consumers and businesses are allowed to be represented in the related deliberations, but only by people aligned to the agenda of the digital payments industry. The Payment Systems Regulator is itself fully bought in to digitization and its panels – The PSR Panel and The Digital Payments Initiative – are as heavily populated by members of the Visa and Mastercard ecosystems as are the Britcoin committees. It’s CAPTURE all the way.
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Bob Lyddon is an experienced management consultant both privately and with PwC, with a specialization in banking and payments. He has published numerous papers about the financial mechanisms of the EU, through the Bruges Group, Politeia and Global Britain.
 ‘Portfolio career’: multiple part-time consultancy appointments, the one appointment serving as the reference to obtain the next; ‘nomenklatura’: the appointment of people for their political allegiance as opposed to their professional competence
 https://www.ecb.europa.eu/paym/digital_euro/html/index.en.html accessed on 15 November 2022
 https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/payment-and-settlement/rtgs-renewal-programme accessed on 15 November 2022
 https://www.wearepay.uk/programmes/new-payments-architecture-programme/ accessed on 15 November 2022
 https://www.finextra.com/newsarticle/41168/eurosystem-delays-t2-wholesale-payment-system-launch accessed on 21 October 2022
 https://www.swift.com/news-events/news/swift-accepts-community-request-start-iso-20022-migration-march-2023 accessed on 15 November 2022