UK must pound the table for the return of imperial measures in Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Protocol must allow pounds and ounces to be used in the province to prevent a “two-speed UK”, Tory Brexiteers have warned ahead of treaty talks with the EU.

Imperial measurements will not be returning to Northern Ireland under government plans to slash EU red tape because of the Brexit deal to stop a hard Irish border.

Traders in Britain will be able to sell exclusively in pounds and ounces as part of the bonfire of Brussels rules but Northern Irish shops and stalls will still have to display grams and kilograms. The Northern Ireland Protocol means the province follows some EU rules, including on measurements.

Lord Frost begins negotiations with Brussels today, 18 October, over the treaty, which grants Northern Ireland access to the Single Market but the UK argues disrupts trade with Britain.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, put Lord Frost under pressure to secure changes that would prevent a “two-speed UK”, saying Northern Ireland must be able to make the same reforms as the rest of Britain.

After Brexit, the Government ordered a review of inherited EU rules. The Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform (TIGRR) report calls for EU measurement rules to be repealed so that traders can sell exclusively in imperial again.

The EU weights and measures directive, which requires the use of metric for the sale of fresh produce, came into force in 2000 in the UK. Traders could still use imperial but only alongside metric, which had to be as prominent.

A group of small traders known as the “metric martyrs” were prosecuted for selling in imperial measures in the early 2000s. The legal battle that followed is credited with sowing the seeds of Brexit and the campaign to pardon the “metric martyrs” continues to this day.

‘Why would EU expect to set rules for within the UK?’

“We can see why the EU would want to insist on goods exported from Britain to the EU following their labelling rules,” said Warwick Cairns, from advocacy group the British Weights and Measures Association.

“But when it comes to how people buy, sell and measure goods within the UK, we can’t see how it affects them or why they would expect to set the rules.”

Sir Iain, an author of the TIGGR report, said: “All of the things we do here in the UK, on the GB side, must also be relevant to those who live in the United Kingdom on the Northern Ireland side.”

“On that basis, the TIGRR report is aimed at the whole of the United Kingdom, and not just GB. And I made that point, obviously, to Lord Frost,” he said.

Northern Irish farmers will be unable to benefit from British plans to introduce gene-editing in crops, because it is effectively banned in the EU and treated as genetically modified food.

A more risk-based approach for chemicals regulation, nutraceutical supplements and animal feed nutrients would also be impossible, under the terms of the treaty, which was signed in 2019.

Lord Frost will demand in the upcoming talks that Brussels allow the return of free movement of British pets in Northern Ireland, which is limited because the province follows EU animal health rules.

The European Commission has offered to dramatically reduce Irish Sea border checks but nothing to curb onerous and expensive travel of dogs, cats and other pets.

The UK wants the European Court of Justice stripped of its role in Northern Ireland but Brussels insists it is a prerequisite for Single Market access.

Source: The Telegraph