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EU Give Green Light to Imperial Measurements

  • November 30th, 2007
  • Posted by Sian Graham

imperial.gifThe European Parliament today (29.11.07) scrapped laws set to phase out the use of imperial measurements in Britain and Ireland.

Under the EU decision the countries can keep miles on road signs, and pubs may continue to serve draft beer and cider in pint mugs.

Pint-sized milk bottles will also be retained as will the Troy ounce for weighing precious metals — and imperial measurements may legally be displayed alongside their metric counterparts.

The European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry Gunter Verheugen welcomed the decision.

“This is good news for British and Irish citizens, who are used to their traditions of miles and pints,” he said.

“It’s also good for exporters, who can continue to have one single label for sales throughout the whole European Union and exports to the United States.”

Officially Britain and Ireland use the metric system but their imperial counterparts remain popular amongst consumers.


Overwhelming public criticism of the original proposal introduced in 1999 to fade out the use of imperial measurements saw one group of English fruit sellers’ become known as the “Metric Martyrs”.

The group continued to use imperial scales to weigh fruit and vegetables and in turn faced legal action from the state.

In 2001 one fruiter, Steven Thoburn made the ultimate stand against the legal ban.

He was charged and convicted of selling a pound of bananas to an undercover consumer protection officer and using an imperial scale.

Unfortunately Mr Thoburn passed away, failing to live long enough to have his conviction pardoned or to hear the latest proposal put forward by the EU — but nonetheless he will be noted in history as instrumental in the change.

The new proposal is still to be put to all the EU member states for final approval but is expected to be implemented without contest.


European Commission, “EP supports Commission move to facilitate trade with US and to allow continued use of pints and miles”, 29.11.07. (30.11.07).

Metric Martyrs Defence Fund, “Background to the Scale Seizures in Sunderland and Chronology of Events”, (30.11.07).

Picture: (30.11.07).