From the Fringe | 18.12.2008
EU Saves Pints and Miles From Metric Makeover
Much to the annoyance of many Europeans, the EU is usually about changing, rather than preserving traditions. But the bloc has surprised Britons by saying its okay to continuing using Imperial increments.
The European Parliament agreed a measure on Tuesday, December 16 allowing British and Irish citizens to continue to use their familiar weights and measurements, overriding a previous plan to make the two countries convert to the metric system by the end of 2009.
EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said the decision was "good news for the people in the UK and Ireland who prefer to use pints and miles, as current practices will remain in place."
But the rationale behind the decision was as much economic as cultural.
"Today's agreement will also ensure that imperial measurements can be indicated alongside metric -- a measure that will lower costs for industry by allowing them the same labeling for their exports, whether in the EU or elsewhere in the world," Verheugen said.
The United States, which is a major European trading partner, is another country notoriously hostile to the metric system.
Acres, though, have to go
The decision -- which means that, sobriety permitting, UK and Irish citizens are still free to drink six pints and then drive 10 miles back home -- came as welcome news to perennial Euroskeptic British conservatives.
"The [British] government may be eager to scrap the pound as our currency, but at least we can say we have saved it indefinitely - as a measurement at any rate," British Conservative MEP Giles Chichester told the dpa news agency.
But what applies to beer and beef does not pertain to land.
The "acre," which is no longer used to register landing either Britain or Ireland, will be discontinued, the European Parliament ruled.