2021-09-18 00:01:34 Britain Signals Intent to Revert to the Imperial System

Britain Signals Intent to Revert to the Imperial System

LONDON: The British government announced plans to return to the country’s traditional system of imperial weights and measures, allowing shops and market stalls to sell fruits and vegetables labeled solely in pounds and ounces rather than the metric system’s grams and kilograms, a move hailed as an example of the country’s new post-Brexit freedoms.

The plans, announced on Thursday by David Frost, the minister in charge of Brexit, were applauded by Brexit supporters, many of whom had argued that the switch to the metric system over the decades was a sign of unwelcome European Union interference in daily life in Britain.

While the European Union currently requires members to use only the metric system, when Britain was a member, it allowed it to label its produce in imperial units in addition to metric units. There were some exceptions, such as traffic signs and beer.

As part of its withdrawal from the European Union, the British government is now reviewing thousands of E.U. rules that it has kept and determining whether they best serve the national interest. These rules include the European Union’s ban on sales in imperial units, which the British government said it would change “in due course.”

Since Britain formally exited the European Union on January 1 after nearly 50 years of membership, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promoted his vision of a “Global Britain” free of the rules imposed by the 27-member bloc.

Changes in the color of British passports from the European Union’s burgundy to Britain’s traditional blue, which was dropped in 1988, have been cited by British officials as bold and triumphant symbols of the country’s new freedom.

However, critics, including the 48 percent of voters who did not support Britain’s exit, have said that such advances are insignificant and unhelpful at a time when employers are struggling to fill thousands of vacant jobs, owing in part to the exodus of European Union immigrants since the Brexit vote.

A variety of new time-consuming and confusing procedures that have made importing and exporting goods to and from the European Union more difficult, shortages at British supermarkets, and a rift over unresolved trade rules for Northern Ireland are among the concerns about the country’s fragile economic recovery.

Nonetheless, Mr. Frost, the Brexit minister, stated on Thursday that the shift to the imperial system would be part of broader changes that Britain would make to “capitalize on new Brexit freedoms.”

“Overbearing regulations were frequently conceived and agreed in Brussels with little regard for the national interest of the United Kingdom,” he said in announcing his intention to introduce legislation to change the rules. “We now have the opportunity to do things differently and ensure that Brexit liberties are used to help businesses and citizens get started and succeed.”

Tony Bennett, a member of Active Resistance to Metrication, a small group that has long advocated for England to return to its old weights and measurements, expressed delight at the news.

Mr. Bennett claimed that the campaigns to leave the European Union and to return to imperial measurements were motivated by a desire to preserve what he saw as the gradual erosion of British culture and tradition.

“The system of weights and measures is integral to our daily life, as well as to our written culture, our language,” he said, citing phrases like “an inch is as good as a mile” and “inching forward.” Over the last two decades, he and his group have placed stickers on thousands of signs in public parks and on roads in England that use the metric system.

Because so many countries use it, proponents of the metric system argue that its use is required for companies to compete globally. Those who support the metric system also point out that Britain began its transition to the metric system in 1965, eight years before joining the European Union. Others argued that there were more pressing issues to address, such as cuts to public services.

A YouGov poll of British adults conducted in 2015 found that younger people favored the metric system, with more than 60% of those aged 18 to 39 saying they would measure short distances in meters, compared to less than 12% of those over 60.

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Britain Signals Intent to Revert to the Imperial System