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Sun may never set on British Empire's pint

UK metric-system selling to be indefinitely deferred

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Campaigners and Conservative politicos claim to have won an indefinite reprieve for the traditional British pound, inch, foot and - perhaps most importantly - pint.

The BBC reports that the planned 2009 deadline for all UK/European sales to be conducted using the metric system has now been put in limbo, perhaps forever.

The Tories' industry spokesman Giles Chichester said EU commissioner Gunther Verhuegen had told him that the marking of goods in both metric and imperial could "continue indefinitely".

The commissioner agreed it was good for British and European industry to keep imperial measurements as it would make it easier for firms to sell to the US, apparently after Tory lobbying.

Chichester said: "After saving the crown on the British pint I am happy the Conservatives have persuaded the Commission that it is good not only for international business but for the British people that traditional measurements are kept."

The metric system was originally sponsored by French revolutionaries, and despite an early attempt by famed continental tyrant Napoleon Bonaparte to do away with it, has spread worldwide ever since. Resistance has been strong in the UK - as today's announcement clearly shows - but not a patch on that seen in the United States. Despite the fact that they were allied with the Frenchies against their British colonial rulers, rebellious eighteenth-century Americans never warmed to the metric system.

As the times went by, testy Yanks also refused to comply with British innovations in many areas; they refused to drink tea, pay taxes to unresponsive central government, or free their slaves, for instance. Many of these things eventually happened in America, but to this day even the lukewarm British acceptance of metric measures hasn't occurred Stateside - other than among drug dealers, anyway, and younger handgun fanciers - groups with a good deal of overlap.

But the USA is now the world's biggest market, and seemingly it is American intransigence which has saved the erstwhile mother country's measurements. Strange days indeed.

Presumably, Commissioner Verhuegen will now be reflecting ruefully that if you give these Brits an inch, they'll take a mile. ®

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