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British, Irish pints prevail over EU's imperial ban

The British and Irish will still be able to walk a mile and buy a pint after the European Commission decided not to force their countries to go completely metric.

The British and Irish will still be able to walk a mile and buy a pint after the European Commission decided not to force their countries to go completely metric.

The commission relented Tuesday and backed off the EU's 1999 decision to make the United Kingdom and Irish Republic replace pints and miles with metric equivalents by 2009.

The decision "honours the culture and traditions of Great Britain and Ireland," commission vice-president Guenter Verheugen, who is responsible for enterprise and industry policy, said in a release.

The commission, which administers and enforces European Union laws and policies, said it would allowthe U.K.and Irish Republicto keep exemptions from its rules requiring the use of metric units.

The exceptions include pint bottles for milk and pints of draught beer and cider, miles for road signs and speed markers and the troy ounce for precious metals.

Thecountriesofficially use the metric system.

In its public consultations on the question, the EU said consumers and teachers were largely in favour of the metric system. It found industry groups, companies and national governments feared metric-only labels in part because they would disrupt trade with theUnited States, whichdoes not allow such labels.

There were 149 responses from businesses and governments, and 45 from the public and teachers.

The decision comes three years after the death ofone of the best-known figures in the fight to retain imperial measures.

Steven Thoburn, a grocer from Sunderland in northeast England who became known as the Metric Martyr, was nailed by an undercover squad in 2000for selling produce by the pound.

He was convictedin 2001 forbreaking European Union rules, butgiven a conditional discharge.