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Britain signals intent to return to imperial system

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

The plans announced on Thursday by David Frost, the minister overseeing Brexit, were welcomed by Brexit supporters, many of whom had argued that the move to the metric system in recent decades was a sign of unwanted interference from the European Union. Union in Everyday Life in Britain.

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

As part of its exit from the European Union, the UK government is now reviewing thousands of EU rules it has retained and determining whether they best serve the national interest. Those rules include the EU’s ban on sales in imperial units, which the British government said it would make 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 prosper without being shackled by rules imposed by the 27-year-old. stubborn block.

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

But critics, including the 48 percent of voters who did not support Britain’s departure, have said such claims seem small and not very helpful at a time when employers are struggling to fill thousands of jobs, partly vacant because of the exodus. of immigrants from the European Union since the vote to leave the bloc.

Concerns over the country’s fragile economic recovery include a series of new time-consuming and confusing procedures that have made it difficult to import and export goods to and from the European Union, shortages at UK supermarkets and a breach over unresolved trade rules for Northern Ireland.

Nevertheless, Mr Frost, the Brexit minister, said on Thursday that the transition to the Imperial system would be part of the wider changes Britain was making. to “take advantage of new Brexit freedoms”.

“Presumptuous rules were often devised and agreed upon in Brussels without regard to the UK’s national interest,” he said, announcing the intention to introduce legislation to change the rules. “We now have the opportunity to do things differently and ensure that Brexit freedoms are used to help businesses and citizens move forward and succeed.”

Tony Bennett, a member of Active Resistance to Metrics, 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.

Mr Bennett said the campaign to leave the European Union and the campaign to return to imperial standards were about 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 lives and also of our written culture, our language,” he said, citing expressions such as “an inch is as good as a mile” and “crawling forward.” He estimates that over the past two decades, he and his group have affixed stickers to thousands of signs in public parks and on roads that use the metric system in England.

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

A poll by YouGov in 2015 of UK adults found that younger people preferred the metric system, with more than 60 percent of 18- to 39-year-olds saying they would measure short distances in metres, compared with less than 12 percent of those over 60 .

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