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Return of imperial system on cards for Brexit Britain – measurements have always been political

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Last year, the return of blue passports was touted as a symbol of Britain taking back control following Brexit. Some in government would now like to see Britain’s imperial measurements make a comeback. As part of a review on EU laws still in place after Brexit, the government plans to remove a ban on selling goods using only imperial units.

The collective memory of many eurosceptics is that the metric system was imposed by Europe in the 1970s upon an unwilling British public. There was political turmoil over quotidian tasks – buying milk and beer in litres rather than in pints. Metric measurements made European integration seem very real, close to home and highly undesirable to some.

A succession of European directives on measurements crystallised and maintained the sceptical view that Brussels was forcing even the Queen to obey European laws. Politicians pointed to Brussels compulsorily replacing pints and inches with litres and metres as evidence that joining Europe meant a loss of British identity.

In fact, metrication was not imposed on Britain after joining the EEC in 1975. British industrialists lobbied politicians to commit to a programme on metrication in the 1960s. The commitment to metrication and currency decimalisation precedes Britain’s entry into the European Common Market. But measurement systems have long been used as convenient tools and symbols for political ends.

The English state had unsuccessfully attempted to introduce standardised measurements at least since the Magna........

© The Conversation

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