Consultation to review ‘overbearing EU rules’ on imperial measurements

Plans to revisit regulations on the use of imperial measurements in Britain will restore ‘common sense’ to the statute book, the Government said.

02 June 2022

The Government has confirmed that a consultation which could pave the way for greater use of imperial measurements in post-Brexit Britain will be launched on Friday.

Plans to review “overbearing EU rules” will restore “common sense” to the statute book, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The EU weights and measures directive came into force in 2000, with traders legally required to use metric units for sale-by-weight or the measure of fresh produce.

It remains legal to price goods in pounds and ounces, but they have to be displayed alongside the price in grammes and kilogrammes, except in a limited number of cases.

The 12-week consultation will look at how to change those stipulations, giving traders more freedom to choose how they price fresh items.

It will assist the Government in considering, for example, allowing vegetables to be sold in pounds only, or in pounds with a less prominent metric equivalent.

BEIS said this will help inform plans to legislate to give businesses greater choice over the units they use.

The department insisted the move would not inflict further costs on businesses as there was no intention to require them to make a change.

A range of stakeholders are being invited to contribute to the consultation, including businesses, trade associations, enforcement bodies and consumer organisations.

The Government announced its intention to review the rules on imperial measurements in September last year, as part of a range of post-Brexit regulatory reforms.

Business minister Paul Scully said: “While we think of our fruit and veg by the pound, the legacy of EU rules means we legally have to sell them by the kilo.

“Our consultation today will help shops to serve customers in the way their customers want.”

The move has come in for criticism, with Tory peer and supermarket boss Lord Rose of Monewden arguing that the idea of returning to imperial weights and measures is “complete and utter nonsense” and would “add cost” for those making the transition.

Lord Rose of Monewden
Lord Rose of Monewden (Lauren Hurley/PA)

The Asda chairman said on Thursday that the change would only please “a small minority who hark for the past”.

New Government guidance published on Friday will also help businesses apply the Crown symbol to pint glasses, in what BEIS said will serve as a “tribute” to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

British pint glasses intended for measuring and serving beer used to be marked with a Crown stamp as a declaration that the measure was accurate.

But on the implementation of an EU directive in 2006, they were required to display an EU-wide “CE” marking’ to show they were conforming with the union’s regulations in the UK.

Glasses already bearing the Crown stamp did not have to be removed from circulation, and those with the EU-wide marking were technically allowed to display the Crown too, as long as it did not obscure the new symbol.

From 2023, glasses entering the market in England, Scotland and Wales will have to carry the new UKCA marking to show they are conforming with legal requirements.

Businesses can decide whether to apply the Crown symbol, which would be purely decorative.

Mr Scully said: “This Platinum Jubilee weekend we’re raising a toast to Her Majesty the Queen’s health and service to this country.

“It’s a fitting tribute that we’re now helping businesses to restore the Crown symbol to pint glasses.”

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