International Law

Miles, Pints Remain Legal UK Measures

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In a reprieve for reluctant adopters of the metric system of measurement that is common throughout Europe and the rest of the world (except in the U.S.), the European Union has amended a previous plan. Britain and Ireland can retain beloved imperial measurements, such as the mile—and the pint—that date back to the Middle Ages, under a preliminary ruling today.

As the case of British grocer known as the metric martyr shows, this is no minor matter, according to the New York Times. Steve Thoburn of Sunderland was convicted in 2001 of measuring fruits and vegetables in pounds and ounces on nonmetric scales and given a six-month conditional discharge. He died after a 2004 heart attack, days after the European Court of Human Rights rejected his appeal.

Britain and Ireland already commonly use metric measurements for many items, but also at issue is whether the EU will entirely eliminate dual imperial measurements. Under the current plan, which must still be approved by the member countries of the EU, many goods must be sold in metric quantities, but British and Irish retailers can show the imperial equivalents.

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