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Sir Bill Cash, MP, Falsely Claims the EU Outlawed Imperial Measures in the UK

Written by Jon Danzig

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?

questions for cash


  • Declaration of interest: Jon Danzig is running a campaign for Britain to remain in the EU. More details on his Facebook community page Reasons2Remain

Jon Danzig is 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: www.jondanzig.com


  • The main reason the UK government decided to metricate in 1965 were economic. Industry were asking for it. Unfortunately it was not carried out properly across the whole of society. It is not sufficient just to teach it at school and expect people to make the change on their own. It requires adaptation and a more compelling reason for change than the ones given.
    The case for it was and remains a good one, its just that politicians don’t understand it fully any more than the general population.
    We need a single rational system that everyone can understand and use. The international system is the best around and we should adopt it fully. Not doing so discourages young people from applying their learning outside school and obstructs their development.

  • I use Office 2010. I tried converting kilograms to stones and pounds. It didn’t want to know. It was however happy to convert grams to ounces. I then tried to convert metres to feet and inches. (In the UK we do not use decimals of a foot, but feet and inches. Again it did not want to know. It woudl only give me decimals of a foot.

    I did not see how I could use EXCEL to calculate the average of 12st 4lbs, 13st 6lbs and 11 st 8lbs. It is however extremely simple to calculate the average of 78.1 kg, 85.6 kg and 73.5 kg.

    • Bill Cash stated that British shopkeepers were prosecuted for selling items using imperial measurements. That is a fact. It means that the EU had banned us from selling items that weren’t metrically measured. If imperial hadn’t been banned, the prosecutions would have failed, which means that Jon was incorrect.

  • The Metric Martyrs did not display metric equivalents for their weights, and that is why they were prosecuted. EU law only allows imperial measurements when the metric equivalents are shown. Therefore, Bill Cash was RIGHT to make that statement, because the Metric Martyrs chose only to display imperial. That makes Jon Danzig wrong yet again.

  • Bill Cash wouldn’t know a lie if it hit him in the face. At various elections has lied about support for Miners, that his children went to a state school ( they did not) and that he had a “family home in the Stone Constituency ( which he did not). Three just for starters!

  • Metrication began in the UK in 1965, and was expected to be complete by 1975 – and that included road signs! We didn’t join the EEC until 1973. By which time I had been using metric-only school text books for 4 years.

    • Metrication in the UK began in 1965 – and ended in 1979, when Margaret Thatcher abolished the Metrication Board.
      It was reintroduced later to comply with EU legislation.
      EU directives, incorporated into UK law, stipulated a cut-off date, 1st Jan 2000, after which it would become a criminal offence for traders to use Imperial measures, except as ‘supplementary indicators.’
      The ‘Metric Martyrs’ trial at the High Court pitted UK law against European law.
      The counsel for the defence pointed out that under Britain’s ‘principle of implied repeal,’ the most recent UK weights and measures laws (Weights and Measures Act 1985) superseded earlier legislation passed to comply with EU directives. But the judge, Lord Justice Laws, said that the earlier European Communities Act, was a special kind of ‘Constitutional Act’, exempt from the usual precedents.
      So to cut a long story short, and whether you think it a good thing or not, Sir Bill Cash is absolutely correct when he says that the EU ‘outlawed imperial measures in the UK.’

  • In British schools, children are taught metric units in the classroom but in the playground and at home they are continually exposed to imperial units. No wonder many of them reject the whole concept of measurement to the detriment of our engineering and scientific industries. We cannot go back to the pre-metric days for the simple reason that calculators and spreadsheets do not handle imperial units. The sooner Bill Cash and his allies stop this anti-metric rhetoric and enter the twentieth (yes the twentieth!) century, the quicker we, as a nation, can ensure that more of our children have a better understanding of measurements.

  • The UK’s failure to complete metrication is a national disgrace. At least two generations of children have been failed. They have learnt metric at school as the nation’s measurement system, yet they still face imperial measures on road signs when they venture beyond the school gate. What country in the world does such nonsense. There is an organisation in the UK, the UK Metric Association which has done very good work to bring this problem out into the open.

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About the author

Jon Danzig

Jon Danzig is 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: www.jondanzig.com