September 12th, 2007

Reprieve for the Pint and the Ounce

Published: September 12, 2007

BRUSSELS, Sept. 11 — Britons and the Irish can still down a pint of beer, walk a mile, covet an ounce of gold and eat a pound of bananas after the European Union ruled today that the countries could retain measurements dating back to the Middle Ages.

Under a previous European Union plan, Britain and Ireland would have been forced to adopt the metric system and phase out imperial measurements by 2009. But after a vociferous antimetric campaign by British skeptics and London’s tabloid press, European Union officials decided that an ounce of common sense (or 28.3 grams) suggested that granting a reprieve was better than braving a public backlash.

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Britain and Ireland officially use the metric system, but imperial measures are still often used alongside their metric equivalents.

Under the European Union decision, they can retain miles on road signs, and pubs may continue to serve pints of beer. Other goods must be sold in metric quantities, but retailers can display imperial equivalents.

A British government spokesman praised the decision as good for Britain and international trade.