Not going metric

Postage stamp celebrating the adoption of the metric system in Japan (picture carpkazu)

An announcement from the European Commission today that the drive to extend the use of the metric system in the UK is coming to an end. (Read about it here.) It’s a pity that the metric case and the pro-European case got tangled up together, because they are completely separate in origin.

The first proposals that the UK should go metric date as far back as the mid 19th century, and the actual decision to convert was taken in 1965. Eagle-eyed blog readers will work out that the UK was not a member of the EU on either of those dates. That’s what I mean about the two issues being separate.

Weights and measures, though, is a fundamental aspect of market regulation. The earliest civilisations have had rules on this, back as far as the Babylonian era, and the EU-wide market we have today requires EU-wide standards. The metric system offers this, but the decision announced today is that old-fashioned imperial measures can live alongside them for those who wish.

It seems like a sensible compromise to me. Now, all that is missing is an apology from the anti-Europeans who have claimed that Brussels is on a relentless treadmill towards ever more centralisation and standardisation and that it never listens to the voice of the people.

While waiting for that, I’m off for a pint.

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