Grocers and butchers across Britain are demanding the right to go back to using traditional British units of measurement after Brexit.
The British Weights and Measures Association (BWMA) says an increasing number of traders want to ditch metric measurements such as kilograms and return to pounds and ounces, which were officially abandoned in 2000 thanks to European Union (EU) regulations.
Currently, British traders are allowed to display traditional measurements but they must be accompanied by their metric equivalents, and all transactions must officially be conducted in metric.
Traditional British measurements are similar to US customary units, although with some significant differences. They are commonly known as “imperial” measurements as they were standardised in 1824 for use across the British Empire.
The British people have proved resistant to attempts at metrification over the past six decades, with road distances still officially measured in miles and yards, and draught beer and cider still legally sold by the pint.
Although state schools only teach metric units, many people still use feet and inches to measure height and stones and pounds for body weight.
The metric system was popularised by Revolutionary France and soon spread across continental Europe, before the EU adopted it as standard. In response to an EU directive, Tony Blair’s Labour government forced traders to use only metric measurements, causing great resentment and leading to prosecutions of so-called “metric martyrs” – shopkeepers who refused to abandon the old system.
Warwick Cairns from the BWMA told the Telegraph: “In 2000, to comply with European legislation, the Government made it a criminal act for a greengrocer to sell a pound of bananas.
“We thought this was outrageous then, we think it outrageous now. And with our exit from the EU, the legal basis of compulsory metrication will be repealed. It’s now time to restore freedom of choice.”
His call was backed by Conservative MP Peter Bone, who said: “Given that our biggest trading partner by a mile – the United States – is still on imperial measurements, it has always been silly that we have had to just do it in metric.
“It makes sense and is one of the advantages of coming out of the EU.
“That is one of those things that can be implemented now so that when we actually pull out it is a smooth process.
“It is a first-class idea and I hope the Government embraces it.”