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UK retains metric system for selling after overwhelming support

The UK government said on Wednesday it had dropped its plan to start selling in imperial measures.

During the UK's 2019 general election campaign, former UK prime minister Boris Johnson pledged that he would bring back imperial units in shops
During the UK's 2019 general election campaign, former UK prime minister Boris Johnson pledged that he would bring back imperial units in shops - Copyright AFP ANGELA WEISS
During the UK's 2019 general election campaign, former UK prime minister Boris Johnson pledged that he would bring back imperial units in shops - Copyright AFP ANGELA WEISS

The UK government said on Wednesday it had dropped its plan to start selling in imperial measures after a consultation revealed 99 percent support for keeping the metric system.

Ministers had looked at changing the law after the UK’s departure from the European Union in 2020 to allow traders to use Britain’s traditional weighing system — which measures in pounds and pints — only alongside the metric one.

But they decided against the move after 98.7 percent of the 100,938 respondents to an official consultation said they were happy using metric units when buying or selling a product.

“The government has analysed all consultation responses received and reviewed the arguments for and against expanding the use of imperial units in domestic consumer transactions,” a statement from the department of business and trade said.

“After careful consideration, the government has decided against any legislative changes at this time.”

The department said the UK had “a long and proud history” of using imperial measures and that their use is “closely associated with our culture and language”.

Distances in Britain are still measured in miles, while beers and milk are also sold in pints.

The department also announced that rules would be altered to allow a 568 ml “pint” size of wine to be stocked on Britain’s supermarkets, pubs, clubs and restaurant for the first time.

The move, it said, that was “ever thanks to new freedoms from leaving the European Union”.

The 568 ml size would sit alongside the 200 ml and 500 ml measures already available, it said.

The department said the reforms were thanks to “new Brexit freedoms” obtained via the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023.

“Our exit from the EU was all about moments just like this, where we can seize new opportunities and provide a real boost to our great British wineries and further growing the economy,” enterprise, markets and small business minister Kevin Hollinrake said.

During the UK’s 2019 general election campaign, former UK prime minister Boris Johnson pledged that he would bring back imperial units in shops.

The former UK leader claimed that measuring in pounds and ounces was an “ancient liberty” and promised a “new era of generosity and tolerance” towards traditional measurements.

The United States, Myanmar and Liberia are the only other countries that use the imperial system on a daily basis.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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