Friday, October 22, 2021

Britain signals intention to return to imperial system

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LONDON – The British government said it was taking steps to return to its traditional imperial system of weights and measures, allowing shops and market stalls to sell fruits and vegetables labeled only in pounds and ounces, rather than in grams and kilograms of the metric system, a move hailed as an example of the country’s new freedoms post-Brexit.

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

While the European Union currently requires members to use the metric system only, it had allowed Britain, as a member, to label its products in imperial units alongside metric units. There were also exceptions for road signs and beer.

As part of its exit from the European Union, the British government is now reviewing thousands of EU rules it maintained and determining if they are the ones that best serve the national interest. Those rules include the EU ban on sales in imperial units, which the British government said would legislate changes “in due course.”

Since Britain formally seceded from the European Union on January 1, after nearly 50 years of membership, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has touted his vision of a “global Britain” that would flourish without being shackled by the rules imposed by the block of 27 members.

British officials have pointed to developments, such as changing the color of British passports from European Union burgundy to traditional British blue, which was phased out in 1988, as bold and triumphant symbols of the country’s new freedom.

But critics, including the 48 percent of voters who did not support Britain’s exit, have said such advances seem small and not very useful at a time when employers are scrambling to fill thousands of jobs, vacancies in partly due to the exodus of immigrants from the European Union. from the vote to leave the block.

Concerns about the country’s fragile economic recovery include a variety of confusing and time-consuming new procedures that have made it difficult to import and export products to and from the European Union, shortages in British supermarkets, and a gap over supplies. unresolved trade rules for Northern Ireland. .

However, Frost, the Brexit minister, said on Thursday that the move towards the imperial system would be part of the broader changes Britain was making. to “capitalize on the new freedoms of Brexit.”

“The dominant regulations were often conceived and agreed in Brussels with little regard for the UK’s national interest,” he said, announcing the intention to introduce legislation to change the rules. “Now we have the opportunity to do things differently and ensure that the freedoms of Brexit are used to help businesses and citizens progress and succeed.”

Tony Bennett, member of Active resistance to metrication, a small group that has been pushing for England to return to its old weights and measures for years, said it was celebrating the development.

Bennett, 74 (and not the jazz singer), estimates that he and his group have placed stickers on some 4,000 signs in public parks and roads that use the metric system in England over the past two decades. Among the signs her group changed this month was a road sign in South Shropshire. They changed the units from meters to feet.

Bennett said that the campaign to leave the European Union and the campaign to return to imperial measures had to do with preserving what he saw as the gradual erosion of British culture and tradition.

“The system of weights and measures is an integral part of our daily life and also of our written culture, our language,” he said, citing expressions such as “an inch equals a mile” and “progress little by little.”

Supporters of the metric system say its use is necessary for companies to compete globally, as many countries use it. Metric fans also point to the fact that Britain began its switch to the metric system in 1965, eight years before joining the European Union. Others said there were more pressing issues to focus on, such as cuts to public services.

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

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