29th May 2022

Brussels pressures Britain to go metric

The European Commission has reminded Britain of its legal requirement to set a date for abolishing the imperial system, or the use of pints, miles and acres.

Following lobbying from unnamed groups, Brussels officials over the past few weeks have made a fresh attempt to get the Brits in line with the rest of Europe in using the metric system, UK media report.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We are in touch with the UK about how they want to do it", a spokesman for industry commissioner Gunter Verheugen was quoted as saying.

"In legal terms it is clear they have committed themselves to the metric we have to see how to deal with it", he said to the Sunday Times.

Metric Martyrs

The Harold Wilson government decided to go metric as early as 1965 and the UK government also agreed to the principle of metrification in 1972 when it adopted the EC act to join the EU.

But in 1979 Britain was given a derogation, allowing it to delay implementation of some of the changes.

Again, little happened until 2000 when it became illegal to sell products by reference to pound, pint or gallon - with the exception of beer.

In 2001, a market trader named Steven Thoburn lost a widely-reported court battle to continue labelling his bananas in pounds and ounces.

He was nicknamed the Metric Martyr, but died earlier this year of a heart attack, aged just 39.

Brussels’ decision to take up the issue again is likely to spark further controversy among British citizens who are already mostly hostile to the EU.

Few Brits see the point in swapping one pint of ale to 568ml or driving 1.609km instead of 1 mile.

"These damn Eurocrats must be mad if they think they can separate a Brit from his pint", Londoner Sam Patterson told the popular British tabloid, the Sun.

The main pro-metrication group in Britain, the UK Metric Association, told the Financial Times it was not "strongly lobbying" the commission.

"We’d prefer to work on persuasion rather than forcing people to do it", said Roz Denny of the group.

Legal action

Earlier this year, Ireland completed its conversion, leaving Britain together with the US among the few countries still using miles on the roads.

If the UK fails to act, it risks an infringement procedure at the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

However, a spokesman for the Department for Transport told the Sunday Times that "The derogation says we will go to metric when we choose a date. We are within our rights, and we have no intention of getting rid of the mile".

EU Commission extends borrowing curbs in 2023

The European Commission on Monday proposed to extend suspension of fiscal borrowing rule in 2023 — but advised prudence amid already rising real interest rates.

Commission grilled on RePowerEU €210bn pricetag

EU leaders unveiled a €210bn strategy aiming to cut Russian gas out of the European energy equation before 2027 and by two-thirds before the end of the year — but questions remain on how it is to be financed.

MEPs raise ambition on EU carbon market reform

MEPs on the environment committee agreed on reform of the European carbon market — including expanding it to buildings and transport. They also want to extend the scope of the carbon border tax, and phase out free permits by 2030.

EU countries rush to expand gas import capacity

EU plans to quit Russian gas and replace it, in part, by importing overseas liquified natural gas has lead to a flurry of new gas projects — which threaten to lock in unnecessary gas use for decades.

Russia's war stifles EU pandemic recovery

The impact of Russia's war in Ukraine is being felt throughout the EU and the eurozone. The European Commission has downgraded its economic forecast to 2.7-percent growth this year.

Commission grilled on RePowerEU €210bn pricetag

EU leaders unveiled a €210bn strategy aiming to cut Russian gas out of the European energy equation before 2027 and by two-thirds before the end of the year — but questions remain on how it is to be financed.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us