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: https://metricviews.uk/2022/01/06/a-pint-of-champagne/)?
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: https://metricviews.uk/2017/03/02/pricing-profits-and-customer-confusion/).
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.