Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly

The economic value of English law in relation to DLT and digital assets

Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Vos MR*

A sound legal foundation is a pre-requisite to good governance and regulation. English law and the UK’s jurisdictions have long provided such a foundation. English law is of inestimable value to the domestic and international economies, and supports finance, economic growth and consumers. The deployment of distributed ledger technology (DLT), blockchain and cryptoassets, alongside the drive towards disintermediation, necessitates a substantial reconsideration of the legal background to the decentralised finance (defi) sector. English law is taking appropriate steps to prepare itself as the law of choice in this area, making the essential changes needed to validate electronic trade documents, to make cryptoassets a third species of property, to cater for Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) in place of corporate structures, and to ensure that its private international law keeps pace with borderless technologies. An enabling regulatory layer will need to follow, to make the UK and the environment of English law hospitable to the practical use of new technologies, so that participants in these new markets can vindicate legal rights quickly and effectively.

1. Introduction

I decided at the very last moment to change the title of this talk from “The Legal Classification of Digital Assets” to “The economic value of English law in relation to DLT1 and digital assets”. As will become apparent, there may have been an element of reverse engineering from the contents of the talk to the new title.
It is perhaps unusual for the Bank of England to invite a senior judge to speak at a symposium. It may be, however, that English law and our English legal system has more to offer to the UK economy than might at first be thought. I will be suggesting today that that is certainly the case in the context of the development of new technologies, including blockchain and digital assets.
My starting point is that law underpins all banking, trade and financial services. It provides the glue that gives investors, traders and even governments the confidence to take economic risks nationally and internationally. Historically, English private law has


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