Cash coshed

In recent weeks, several pro-Brexit newspapers and politicians have raised issues related to the UK’s measurement mess, so we are allowing a Remainer to counter their arguments.

UKMA took no view on whether the UK should remain in or leave the EU – there may be 27 metric countries in the EU, 28 if you include the UK, but there are around 170 other metric countries around the world, including most of the Commonwealth countries that formerly used imperial measures. Indeed, it could be argued that completing the UK’s metric changeover and ending the current muddle will become more important, not less, after Brexit.

Anyway, here, in full, is an article published by Jon Danzig on 6 September.

“Sir Bill Cash MP falsely claims the EU outlawed imperial measures in the UK.

Brexiteers keep telling Remainers to shut up and accept the Referendum result. But it seems nothing can make ‘Leave’ politicians shut up from continuing to spread mistruths about the EU in support of Brexit.

So, of course, the Brexit debate has to continue.

This week, veteran Tory Eurosceptic, Sir Bill Cash MP, repeated in The Sun newspaper old chestnuts about the EU and imperial measures.

He wrote, “The criminalisation of retailers for daring to sell groceries in pounds and ounces was one of the biggest outrages of EU policy.”

And he added, “Now an end to that injustice with the so-called ‘Metric Martyrs’ is within sight. The fanatics and bureaucrats — who are often the same thing — wanted to persecute shopkeepers just for using imperial measurements their customers understood.”

But as the European Commission pointed out:

“The EU has never banned pounds and ounces or other imperial measures.

“EU law does require metric measurements to be used – though already in 1965, eight years before joining the EEC, the Wilson Government decided to initiate the UK’s metrication programme, in response to global moves in this direction.”

EU law has always allowed imperial measures to be used alongside metric ones.

The so-called ‘Metric Martyrs’ were prosecuted in 2001 for using illegal scales, which were not capable of weighing in both imperial and metric systems. They lost their court cases and appeal.

At the time, a government spokesman commented, “In the UK we have been moving to metric since 1965. This is not a European issue. Most of the world has gone metric.”

Back in 2001, the EU Commission also commented:

“Metrication in the UK is not the result of British membership of the EU. In 1965, eight years before joining the EEC, the Wilson Government decided to initiate the UK’s metrication programme, in response to global moves in this direction – Ireland and all Commonwealth countries had already adopted the metric system.

“The transition has been a gradual one but, for almost three decades now, children in British schools have enjoyed a metric-only education.”

But prominent Brexiteer, Sir Bill Cash, stated this week, “We have a complete culture of traditional thinking on the subject of imperial measurements and yet metric was just imposed on us.

“There will be people who say, ‘I have been brought up at school being taught in metres and kilometres, and other metric units’, and that is perfectly understandable. They should not worry. There will still be grams and kilograms.”

Added Sir Bill:

“But there are many people who wish to return to traditional imperial measurements and there is no reason on Earth why they should not be allowed to do so, alongside metric.”

And that’s exactly what we have now, Bill. Why are you continuing to spread misleading statements about the EU in support of Brexit?”

Jon Danzig is running a campaign for Britain to remain in the EU. More details on his Facebook community page Reasons2Remain. He is also an award-winning medical and investigative journalist, formerly at the BBC. He specializes in writing about health, human rights and the European Union. More at:

8 thoughts on “Cash coshed”

  1. It is so painfully obvious that we will have to become more metric after we leave the EU (assuming we do of course) that I cannot believe that even the most ardent Brexiteer cannot see this.

    95% of the world’s population knows and uses only metric units for every aspect of their lives, the USA being the main exception (other supposedly non-metric countries are either in the process of converting or are effectively metric anyway, simply because that is how the world functions). THAT is the world a post-Brexit UK must now start dealing with.

    To return to allowing shops to start selling in imperial units not only says to the world that we have turned our back on Europe, but we are turning our back on the rest of the world as well! Not only must we become more metric, but we must be SEEN to be metric, and reverting to imperial sends out entirely the wrong message.

    The USA exports only 12.6% of its GDP, whereas the UK exports 27.4% (OECD/World Bank data). One of the reasons (though certainly not the only one) for the USA’s poor performance, considering it is the largest nation in the world economically, is that so many of its products do not conform to world standards, including being metric (the majority of the USA’s exports are in services such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc, which have little relevance to units of measurement).

    The UK has no equivalent to Facebook, etc. Consequently, being metric, and being seen to be metric, assumes even greater importance in maintaining the country’s economic wellbeing. We simply cannot afford to go back to a past age.


  2. Sir Bill is quoted as having said: “But there are many people who wish to return to traditional imperial measurements and there is no reason on Earth why they should not be allowed to do so, alongside metric”

    Has Sir Bill carried out an extensive survey to come to that conclusion, or does he make it on the basis of what he hears in his circle of supporters, acquaintances and friends?

    It would be appropriate to ask Sir Bill why Britain needs to run two sets of measurement in parallel when metric is perfectly capable of doing the job on its own and is the system that has been taught in schools for over forty years now. What particular advantage is conferred by using metric for some things in life and imperial for others? Some will claim this is the preference of the majority of the British people. I believe it is the unsatisfactory situation in which governments have left Britain by failing to see the metrication programme through properly.

    One can only image what a mess we would be in if government had not carried decimalisation of the currency through to the end. Does Sir Bill think that shops should be able to return to pricing in traditional “shillings and pence” as well, alongside decimal pricing of course, and if not, why not? He should be asked.


  3. The unfortunate outcome of the referendum was mainly due to David Cameron’s failure to promote Britain’s membership of the EU on positive grounds. Instead he painted a picture of the EU holding an economic gun to our heads and threatening to ruin us if we leave. They also failed to dispel the myths about the EU being undemocratic and did nothing to ensure a proper understanding of its history and purpose. They might also have saved the day if they had put the question of immigration into context. The EU requirement for free movement is only freedom to work in any member state not full citizenship.

    There are parallels to this in metrication.

    No government since 1965 has justified metrication on the grounds of it being a better system and its potential to make life easier in the UK. Instead they have taken a laid back approach and expected the public to make the change on their own and in their own time with little or no positive encouragement. Interested parties, mainly in industry, were only concerned about the economics of the change rather than practical advantages to society of a single system.

    The result has been abject failure in both cases.


  4. Bill Cash was born in 1940 and his education (apart from science) was probably entirely in imperial units. Since his career was in law, not science or engineering, he has probably had very little need to use metric units. Theresa May was born in 1956. I am not sure whether she was in the last cohort to be taught in mainly imperial units or the first to be taught in mainly metric units. After graduating, she worked in finance for six years before entering politics. (For the record David Cameron was born in 1966 and had an exclusively metric education, but read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford and had no career before going into politics).


  5. @ John Frewen-Lord

    A couple of years old, but just as true today:

    I believe the Commonwealth figured out the “Mother Country’s” weakness decades ago and got out when the going was good. I’m sure they are glad they did and have no regrets.

    As for why the Brexiteers can’t see the forest through the trees, it is because they don’t want to. They still think of England as an empire, even though secretly they consider all of the colonies as traitors for abandoning imperial. Their arrogance blinds them to the reality of their demise.

    They think everything will work out because it has been 3 months since the vote and no terrible things have happened. Only because the government is too afraid to invoke article 50 . Once article 50 is invoked (I doubt it ever will be) then the troubles will begin.

    The Brexiteers are so out of touch with reality that they want a hard break. Without a treaty with any country, they will fall under WTO rules. WTO rules would mean high tariffs on key British exports, including a 10% tariff on car exports, 12% on clothing and 40% on lamb. No one will go backwards to accommodate England and for that England will pay a huge price.


  6. If you think about decimalization of the British currency, the elimination of multiple different railroad track gauges, etc. etc. the trend has universally been (with some hiccups, like Napoleon) towards standardization (and for all the sensible reasons cited in various postings on this web site).

    That standardization will come to the UK as well, hopefully sooner rather than later, for all of the units of measure we use every day like mass, length, area, temperature, etc., namely completion of metrication.

    And then it will be our turn here in the USA.


  7. When the artisan/blue-collar segment of the population had to familiarise itself with a new measurement system (i.e. the metric system), Authority couldn’t have cared less about the inconvenience. But when the suits were inconvenienced it was a different story. The current missmash is the worst of all worlds. Even the US is more consistent.
    Bottom line Britisher pals, Luddite UK will take generations to complete the switch to metric, if ever. Australia managed it without going into meltdown. So are Australians more flexible, intelligent or internationally minded than Brits? Obviously yes.
    Another aspect is that most Brits don’t even notice when metric and imperial terms are used in the same sentence. And use of non-standard abbreviation is another issue that has never been addressed.
    Jack, the Japan Alps Brit


  8. The only good thing I can see about Brexit is now we can no longer blame the EU for metrication. As we start trading on our own we will see metrication as a world system!


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