Pint saved as EU allows Ireland and UK to opt out of metric system

THE PINT of beer is here to stay after the European Parliament decided yesterday to allow Ireland and Britain retain imperial…

THE PINT of beer is here to stay after the European Parliament decided yesterday to allow Ireland and Britain retain imperial measurements.

MEPs agreed on an indefinite opt-out to allow the continued use of the pint for draught beer, cider and bottled milk and the ounce for precious metals.

Britain will continue to use the mile for speed indications, road distances and road signs.

The move also means items such as fruit and vegetables can be sold using imperial measures if desired, as long as traders use labelling that provides metric units alongside pounds and ounces.


Although Ireland has already switched to kilometres on the national road network, it has stopped short of giving up the pint.

The ruling yesterday marks the end of years of wrangling between Brussels and Britain, where so-called “metric martyrs” campaigned for the retention of imperial measurements.

Britain has been granted several extensions to a transitional period it had requested to ease the way before going fully metric.

The agreement yesterday removes the need for any transitional periods.

EU enterprise and industry commissioner Günter Verheugen welcomed the move.

“This is good news for people in Ireland and the UK as current practices will remain in place.

“Today’s agreement will also ensure that imperial measurements can be indicated alongside metric – a measure that will lower costs for industry by allowing the same labelling for all their exports, whether in the EU or elsewhere in the world,” he said.

The British government had argued that because Americans still use imperial weights, the system had to be retained to facilitate trade with the US.

Britain’s minister for Europe Caroline Flint called the agreement a “victory for common sense”.

Irish MEPs also welcomed the decision.

“This preserves our traditional and cultural practices and it will ensure that no extra costs are imposed on our drinks industry,” said Fianna Fáil MEP Sean Ó Neachtain.

Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell said he supported the move to retain the pint.

“As someone who has Guinness in my constituency and four generations of Guinness workers in my family I am delighted to hear that the use of the pint has been extended indefinitely.

“Metaphorically, I’ll drink to that,” Mr Mitchell added.