Boris Johnson says 'I'm going to get on with my job'
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The Government confirmed earlier this month it was launching a consultation which could pave the way for wider use of pounds and ounces in post-Brexit Britain. Plans to review “overbearing EU rules” would restore “common sense” to the statute book, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
But businesspeople have slammed the idea, saying there are bigger issues to focus on such as high inflation, the cost of living crisis and struggling High Streets.
Dr Jackie Mulligan is a member of the Government’s High Street Taskforce and the founder of shopappy.com – a platform for local, independent shops to sell goods and services covering more than 100 towns and cities across the UK.
She said: “It’s the last thing we need at this point. Market traders and small businesses are already used to using [imperial and metric].
“It feels like a very backwards step when there is a tsunami of challenges ahead of us. I find it bewildering. It’s not in touch at all with the priorities of communities and High Streets.”
Instead, Dr Mulligan said small businesses needed to see a reform of business rates impacting firms based in town centres.
Nervous sentiment among consumers grappling with the rising cost of living and debt from Government loans made during the pandemic are also worrying small business owners.
Dr Mulligan warned: “[The Government could] take away that stress, otherwise we’ll lose a lot of businesses.”
She told Express.co.uk: “I would rather have our High Streets back in business rather than imperial measurements back when they are kind of there already.”
The EU’s 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 kilogrammes, except in a limited number of cases.
The 12-week consultation will look at how to change those stipulations.
A range of stakeholders are being invited to contribute to the consultation, including businesses, trade associations, enforcement bodies and consumer groups.
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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 Asda chairman Lord Rose of Monewden arguing the idea is “complete and utter nonsense” and would “add cost” for those making the transition.
He said the change would only please “a small minority who hark for the past”.
Michael Oszmann, founder in 2020 of online marketplace Buy Britain, said imperial measurements would not be a priority for the 250 small and family businesses signed up to sell British made products on his platform.
He told Express.co.uk: “I don’t really see the point of it. If this is just about widening choice, then maybe it might make sense to businesses which support older customers. But I don’t see there being widespread adoption.
“I think this is a bit of a distraction. [The Government is] trying to put out something that sounds bonkers to distract from the fact they’ve got a 75-seat majority and haven’t been able to deliver much.
“We’ve got crisis after crisis at the moment. They argue it’s a benefit of Brexit. I don’t see how that would be a benefit of Brexit when there are a whole load of things they could do such as changing VAT and tax laws – things businesses talk about which could make a difference and stimulate the economy.”
Mr Oszmann compared the Government’s handling of the economy to satirical comedy series The Thick of It, claiming ministers just come up with ideas to snatch headlines.
He said: “It’s a shame, with the majority they have, that there aren’t good, strong policies and reforms coming through.
“There’s a lot we could do as a country to stimulate businesses, local jobs, manufacturing and services.
“Instead we focus on oddball announcements that catch headlines or random giveaways rather than something that has lasting, long-term impact.”
The tech entrepreneur added that in the early days of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s premiership he believed the former mayor of London could come up with a bold vision for Britain.
He said: “There were signs in the early days that he could be that person, but I don’t know where that’s gone.
“He’s had some bad luck with the pandemic, but [his majority] seems to have been squandered.”
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