Asda’s chairman has described a government consultation seeking to bring back imperial measurements to shops across Britain as “complete and utter nonsense”.
The supermarket’s chairman and Tory peer Lord Rose said the consultation, which launches on Friday, would only please a “small minority who hark for the past”.
In 2000, the European Union weights and measures directive forced UK traders to use metric when selling packaged or loose goods such as fruit and veg.
They can still use pounds and ounces but must also list grams and kilos, except for a few items.
But the 12-week consultation – trailed by Whitehall sources earlier this week – will examine how this rule might be changed to give traders more freedom.
It could see fruit and veg being priced just in imperial – or in pounds with a less obvious metric equivalent.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said reviewing “overbearing EU rules” would restore “common sense” following Brexit.
It denied it would mean extra costs for businesses and insisted firms would not be forced to make changes.
Businesses, trade associations and consumer groups are among those that will be involved in the consultation.
“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,” said business minister Paul Scully.
“Our consultation today will help shops to serve customers in the way their customers want.”
Boris Johnson claims imperial measures are an ‘ancient liberty’
The potential revival of imperial comes after the prime minister’s appointment of Jacob Rees-Mogg earlier this year as Brexit opportunities minister with a brief to slash Brussels red tape.
But, as far back as the 2019 election campaign, Boris Johnson promised a new “era of generosity and tolerance towards traditional measurements” and claimed measuring in pounds and ounces was an “ancient liberty”.
In a policy paper entitled “Brexit Opportunities” last September, the Cabinet Office vowed to “review the EU ban on markings and sales in imperial units and legislate in due course”.
Then Brexit minister Lord Frost declared: “Overbearing regulations were often conceived and agreed in Brussels with little consideration of the UK national interest. We now have the opportunity to do things differently.”