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Post-Brexit Push For Imperial Measurements Could Be Revived

The return of imperial measurements is backed by many Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs (Alamy)

3 min read

Ministers are considering reviving plans to bring back imperial measurements as part of the legislative agenda to be set out in the King's Speech this Autumn.

The campaign to restore units of weight and measurement like pounds and ounces in the UK is popular with many fervently pro-Brexit Conservative MPs. Last year former prime minister Boris Johnson launched a government consultation on giving businesses and customers greater freedom to buy and sell products in imperial rather than metric units, which have long been standard in the UK in line with European Union rules.

While Johnson, along with vocal Brexiteers including Jacob Rees Mogg, was enthusiastic about the change, the 2022 consultation by the now-defunct Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy found that businesses and people preferred metric units like grams and litres. 

A Conservative party source said the political disruption of 2022, which saw two changes of government, was another reason why the move to reform weights and measures had stalled. "It got rather lost in all the chaos as it was a medium-level priority," they told PoliticsHome.

Kemi Badenoch, the secretary of state for business and trade, has since decided not to scrap EU regulation dictating the labelling of measurements as part of plans to do away with some Brussels laws by the end of the year. 

But PoliticsHome understands that the government is now looking at ways of creating greater choice for businesses and consumers when it comes to units of measurement as it puts together its legislative agenda for the run-up to the next general election, which will be announced in the King's speech in the autumn.

The government does not comment on what will be in the next legislative agenda.

Trade and business secretary Kemi Badenoch

The plan to bring back imperial units in its original form aimed to give businesses the choice to sell their products in imperial units, in imperial units with a smaller reference to the metric equivalent, or in metric. Ministers stressed at the time that it was about providing the choice of imperial units, not making them compulsory.

A move by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to elevate the status of imperial units would likely be welcomed by staunch Leavers on the Tory back benchers, many of whom have expressed frustration with the government's approach to post-Brexit issues like the Windsor framework for Northern Ireland and the question of EU laws still on the UK statute book.

Badenoch's recent decision to slow down the process of scrapping EU laws, contained with the Retained EU Law Bill, irked ardent Brexiteers who complained that ministers were failing to seize what they perceived as the opportunities of Brexit, but she argued that doing so was better for businesses and would give officials more time to do carry out the work carefully.

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