Voters and businesses are “pleased” that the UK Government is set to open the door to greater use of imperial weights and measures, Brandon Lewis has said.
Ministers are preparing to consult on how to further incorporate imperial measurements in Britain after Brexit, with Boris Johnson reportedly keen to announce the move on Friday to coincide with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
The move has faced criticism from the Conservative backbenches, with Alicia Kearns – one of at least 20 Tory MPs to declare they have lost confidence in the Prime Minister over his handling of lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street – calling the idea “a nonsense”.
But Mr Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, said that while the policy was “light-hearted” and a “smaller” freedom provided by Brexit, there were people who “want to go back” to using imperial weights, such as pounds and ounces, and measures such as yards and miles.
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 grams and kilograms.
But the consultation, which is being co-ordinated by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, could change those stipulations, allowing traders to choose how they price fresh items.
Ms Kearns, MP for Rutland and Melton, tweeted that “not one constituent, ever, has asked for this”.
She added: “This isn’t a Brexit freedom. It’s a nonsense.”
Mr Lewis, however, said it would allow the likes of greengrocers and pub landlords to run their businesses as they see fit following the UK’s exit from the European Union.
He told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “This gives people and businesses the freedom.
“There are sectors out there – I know people out there in my constituency, the market traders and vegetable traders as well as some of the pubs – which will be pleased to be able to go back to those imperial measurements.
“We’re just saying you now have a choice, and now we’ve left the EU we can do that.
“Yes, it is one of the smaller things we can do since we left the EU, there are other bigger things we can do and want to do, but it is an indication we now have the freedom to make these decisions ourselves.”