By Geoff Meade, PA Europe Editor, in Brussels
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
Britain's pints and miles were reprieved by the European Commission today - toprotect the nation's "traditions, culture and lifestyle".
Europe's Industry Commissioner Gunter Verheugen said it was time to end a "pointless battle" after decades of wrangling between London andBrussels over pressure to switch to the metric system.
Imperial weights and measures now face no further threat from Brussels: "It is entirely up to the British Government whether to keep pints andfeet and inches, and the whole miles system, but as far as the Commission is concerned there is not now and never will be any requirement to drop imperial measurements," said the Commissioner.
TheGovernment was under pressure to announce a date for phasing out imperial measures altogether.
The deadline expired in 2009, but Mr Verheugen said he had never seen any reason to justify dropping imperialmeasurements.
He went on : “ Then we held a very wide ranging consultation which confirmed how unpopular this move was.
He said the decision had been adopted unanimously by the EUcommissioners - but he acknowledged that there was one eye on the bigger political picture in Britain: "Of course I am very aware of the political considerations, and of the fact that this kind of issue can beused by Euro sceptics against us.
"In that sense the issue of weights and measures is of great political meaning and importance. Whether a decision such as that we are taking today can turn around theEuro sceptic argument in Britain I doubt. But this does demonstrate that Europe values tradition and does not want to harmonise everything - we are not acting as the great equaliser.
"I am thestrongest supporter of European diversity - the characteristic that means Europe has hundreds of different kinds of cheeses when a harmoniser would say you only need about four."
The Commissioner added:...