Imperial return is part of Brexit symbolism

The return of imperial units is part of a wider range of symbolic changes that are coming as a result of Brexit.

Recent articles in the media and on this blog have mentioned the proposed new pint size for champagne bottles and the restored legality of pounds and ounces for the retail trade. The latter will make little practical difference because a lot of small shops and market traders already use pounds and ounces exclusively in defiance of the law. The proposed changes will make it legal, entrench the two-system muddle in retailing and undo the completion of the metrication process of the retail trade. The Minister for Brexit Opportunities Jacob Rees-Mogg recently suggested that sparkling wine could be sold in plastic bottles.

The other symbolic changes that are coming as a result of Brexit are:

  • Replacement of the European Union’s CE mark with the Crown Stamp on beer glasses.
  • Replacement of the CE mark with the new UKCA mark on goods.
  • Replacement of the European Union’s burgundy colour with blue on the covers of new British passports.
  • Replacement of the GB Euro Badge with the union jack on new British number plates and driving licences.

How many Britons will see the metric retreat and symbolic symbol replacements as real benefits? They appear to be so insignificant. Are these proposals a substitute to cover up for the lack of real tangible benefits that improve people’s lives and distract the public’s attentions from the real problems that I mentioned in my “Pint of Champagne?” MV article (link:

I wonder why the government and advocates of pounds and ounces have not proposed the return of gallons for fuel sales at petrol stations and other imperial units for the sake of consistency. Could it be because nobody is interested in selling fuel by the gallon anymore? And why is that the case? I suspect that it is because a gallon is larger than a litre. In my “Pricing, Profits and Customer Confusion” MV article, I argued that traders try to the use the smallest unit they can get away with (link:

It seems ridiculous that British politics has gone through four and a half years of chaos and paralysis, two general elections, two prime ministerial resignations, mass political defections, three government defeats on Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, votes on alternative Brexit options that were all rejected and several Article 50 extensions after the Brexit referendum just to introduce a new bottle size for one particular type of drink and to legalise another measurement unit for the retail trade.

Some politicians and the Eurosceptic media are promoting these meaningless changes as benefits of Brexit. Really? How will we benefit from them?

Leaving a market of 27 metric-using members would require joining another with around 190 countries using metric. This includes all the big Commonwealth countries. The British Government is keen to forge closer ties with these countries and other fast-growing markets around the world. These measurement proposals will create more barriers between the UK and the Commonwealth and between GB and NI, harming the integrity of the union.

I don’t recall any Leave campaigner telling the public to vote for Brexit to bring back imperial measures and change a few symbols on various objects. The Brexiteers promised a lot more than this during the Brexit referendum campaign. It is time for them to deliver on their promises and drop these pointless imperial proposals.

The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not those of UKMA.

14 thoughts on “Imperial return is part of Brexit symbolism”

  1. I mean, why not go the whole hog and revert to pounds, shillings, and pence?! You answer the question, why not gallons at the fuel pumps? by pointing out that retailers would always choose the smaller unit, to appear cheaper. However, you have to point the finger at certain members of the British public for being so naive, and ill educated that they don’t seem to understand it makes no difference whether your carpets are priced by the square yard or the square metre. I remember well when decimalisation of the pound came about, all sorts of accusations that every retail outlet was bound to increase their prices as a result were bandied about. And there would be a lot of rounding up where amounts didn’t quite tally. This is ridiculous when you think about it as about the most you could be out by was half a new penny. Okay, so that was definitely worth quite a bit more then than it would be now, but apart from a very small numbers, even with everything rounded up, you couldn’t be out by more than a few pennies at the end of the week!

    Sorry, preaching to the converted. But there is a more serious point to be made here as well. Both my children, in their 30s, still generally use feet and inches to measure height, inches around the waist for clothing et cetera, shoe sizes in the old imperial measurement, which never made much sense to me anyway! And nearly everybody still talks about mpg. I am sorry to say that even I occasionally work out the mpg of my car, as a comparator. Although I am perfectly happy to work in miles per litre, or litres per hundred miles (although that sounds ALL wrong!!) or litres per hundred kilometres (where you would have to convert miles to kilometres. Where and when will this madness end!) I don’t think I know anyone where I live who would know what 10 miles to the litre actually meant. It is an utterly crazy situation, not helped by the fact that we retained the stupid mile and everybody else went metric, including the Republic of Ireland. Well done to the Republic of Ireland I say, who avoided a quagmire by doing the right thing at the right time. Pity they still drive on the left like we obviously do…


  2. IF Jacob Rees-Mogg MP fills his own vehicle with fuel, (at a fuel station pump), perhaps someone could ask him to explain giving full details, what he does to ensure he knows how many gallons goes into his tank.


  3. There’s is a reason that no one is interested in switching fuel to gallons. The huge cost. Who would pay for it? The oil industry executives must have informed the government that they have no interest to switch and would fight such a request.

    All the Rees-Mogg types can do are what they are presently doing and that is giving the market traders the right to sell in pounds as they are the only ones crying about the use of kilograms and openly fighting their usage. No one else is. Everyone else went metric decades ago and have no intention nor desire to revert. The fake media reporters and editors are blowing it out of proportion.


  4. @MetricViewer 2022-07-21
    I think J R-M’s transport would run on bales of hay. Of which I find there is indeed a standard size of 3x4x8 footsies.
    Consumption would thus be bales/acre.
    More seriously, another reason (according to memory) the gallon at the pumps went quickly was indeed the cost of converting pump to display the price when it exceeded £1 (pound) per gallon. It was thus prudent to pricing in litres as the pumps had to be changed anyway.


  5. @Daniel: During the premiership of Margaret Thatcher (35 years ago), merication almost ground to a halt. The only major change was the fuel industry. That was done at the request of the fuel industry. Petrol pumps were electro-mechanical devices and could accept prices of up to 2000 units of currency per gallon or per litre. The industry knew that this was coming, so all new petrol pumps had a switch that enabled them to be converted from gallons to litres very quickly When the price of petrol hit £1.50 (1500 currency units), the petrol industry, realising that as soon as petrol got to £2 per gallon, they could not quote the price to 0.1 p per gallon. At the request of the industry, the sale of petrol was converted from gallons to litres and for a time forecourts had to display both gallon and litre prices.

    Since then, most petrol pumps have been replaced at least once, if not multiple times and I suspect that they no longer have a litres/gallon switch, or if they do, then it would be US gallons so that the relevant bit could be sold in countries that use US gallons).


  6. This article is plainly anti-Brexit. I think it was a mistake to publish it. It drives a coach and horses through UKMA’s previously held position of remaining neutral on the subject of the EU and Brexit, and I wouldn’t be surprised if UKMA loses its pro-Brexit supporters as a consequence.

    Trying to keep metrication separate, in the eyes of the public, from the politics of the EU and Brexit, has always been one of our main struggles. This article will make that task more difficult.

    The use of the word “symbolic” in the article implies that these changes are trivial. In truth, away from the distraction of colours, the real change to our passports is far from trivial. They no longer give us freedom of movement to live, work, get married, or retire in any one of 27 other countries in our continent. The new requirement for all British passports to be stamped also causes daily havoc for holiday makers and businesses alike. On a personal note, my retirement plans have had to be cancelled.

    Incidentally, Crown marks on beer glasses were never banned by the EU.

    And the “blue” passports are actually black.

    Even BBC News, has fallen for the Orwellian-style brainwashing that black is actually blue.


  7. m:

    The article you refer to clearly states at the end that the views expressed in it are those of the author and not of the UKMA. It also states “Leaving a market of 27 metric-using members would require joining another with around 190 countries using metric”. This is what the article is all about: the need to understand and use metric on a practical level to operate in the global market. I think the country is actually going to have to face up to the future very soon. So many commentators are currently writing that her late Majesty the Queen was the ‘glue’ that held the country together. I believe this to be true. Without her, Britain has got to decide what kind of a country does it want to be: a lone wolf in a big, bad world, part of a regional alliance of nations, or something completely different. The issue of upgrading the system of measurement, on the roads in particular, is bound to come up as part of this process. There’s no EU to blame any more.


  8. @metricnow
    My comment was in response to the article as it appeared when originally published – before the disclaimer was added about it not representing the views of UKMA.

    The original article also didn’t include the paragraph about requiring joining another market with 190 countries using metric.


  9. m:

    Thanks for the clarification. Perhaps I didn’t see the original, unamended article.


  10. metricnow,

    It is really unfortunate that the believers in both Brexit and continued metrication have to deal with the majority of Brexit believers pressing for a return to imperial. It causes a loss of confidence among supporters of complete metrication that the Brexit supporters can’t be trusted to press forward with metrication and that the majority of Brexit supporters are die-hard metric opposers.

    I would hope that more people like you could be a force within the Brexit movement to counter the push of the Brexit movement towards imperisation. A return to imperial is not an advantage of Brexit.


  11. Daniel:

    I have nothing to do with any Brexit movement. But there is obviously a link between those who wanted us to leave the EU and those who oppose modern measurements (as taught in schools for nigh on 50 years!).


  12. Metricnow,
    Yep, I should have addressed my comment to m. I hope m sees this and comments.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: