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FactCheck: Did the EU ban crown symbols from appearing on pint glasses in the UK?

The Mail on Sunday made the claim yesterday.

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THE UK MAIL on Sunday has claimed that the European Union banned crown symbols from featuring on pint glasses in Britain under rules introduced in 2004.

The newspaper carried a front-page story yesterday that heralded the return of the symbol in time for the beginning of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations for the UK’s Queen Elizabeth later this week.

The crown featured on pint glasses for more than 300 years and was used as a mark to show that they were big enough to hold a full pint.

However, the Mail on Sunday alleged that the EU ordered the removal of crowns in 2004 as part of a directive on measurements to demonstrate conformity with European rules.

Did this really happen? Let’s take a closer look.

The Claim

The UK’s Mail on Sunday newspaper claimed that the European Union “ordered [the UK] to remove the crown symbol” from pint glasses.

In its front-page story on 29 May, it said that “the 2004 EU Measuring Instruments Directive required the use of the EU-wide ‘CE mark’ to demonstrate conformity with EU rules”.

The story quotes an unnamed British government source, who said the directive led to “the effective removal of the crown symbol because the UK ‘could not have two competing indications of conformity’.”

FT6QgLuXwAA4THa Mail on Sunday Mail on Sunday

The claim was originally made by senior members of the Conservative Party late last year, as the UK pledged to roll back what they perceived to be the stifling red-tape imposed upon them by membership of the European Union.

In September last year, former Brexit negotiator David Frost said in a letter to Ian Duncan Smith that the UK Government had agreed to permit the printing of the crown stamp on pint glasses “and to review the EU ban on markings and sales in imperial units [...] neither of which were possible within the EU”.  

Then in December, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to return the crown to pint glasses as part of a list of “key successes” of Brexit for 2022.

“From simplifying the EU’s mind-bogglingly complex beer and wine duties to proudly restoring the crown stamp on to the side of pint glasses, we’re cutting back on EU red tape and bureaucracy and restoring common sense to our rulebook,” he said at the turn of the new year.

The Evidence

Firstly, let’s look at the 2004 Measuring Instruments Directive cited in the piece, which is blamed for causing the crown to be banned from featuring on pint glasses in the UK.

The directive harmonised standards on so-called ‘measuring instruments’ by introducing certain requirements on them if they are sold or manufactured in the European Union.

The term ‘measuring instruments’ refers to a number of different things within the directive, but one of the specific definitions is “a drinking glass” which is designed to “determine a specified volume of liquid [...] which is sold for immediate consumption” – which would include a pint of beer.

The directive also specifies a number of rules around shapes and markings, but one of the rules also states that instruments should contain the “CE” mark.

The CE stands for “Conformité Européenne” which means “European Conformity” in English. If you’ve bought something in the EU or that was made in the EU – a children’s toy or a medical device – you’ll likely have spotted this symbol before.

It’s basically a mark to say that the EU deems that the product conforms to agreed standards on health, safety and environmental protection.

So the Mail On Sunday’s story is so far correct in saying that the 2004 Measuring Instruments Directive led to the introduction of the CE mark.

a-pint-glass-etched-with-the-crown-stamp-rather-than-the-european-ce-marking-as-ukip-mep-bill-etheridge-has-backed-calls-for-the-return-of-traditional-crown-stamps-on-britains-pint-glasses A pint glass etched with the crown stamp Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

But what about the removal of the crown symbol because of a clash with the CE mark?

The directive also contains a series of rules around the placement and use of the CE mark on measuring instruments.

For example, it says that the mark must be at least 5mm high and that manufacturers have to place the CE mark on products themselves, or show it in packaging or accompanying documents if a product is too small or sensitive to carry it.

Crucially, the directive says that instruments can contain other markings as long as they don’t impact on the visibility or legibility of the CE mark or deceive people as to its meaning.

A spokesperson for the Commission directed The Journal to Article 7.3 of the directive, which states:

The affixing of markings on a measuring instrument that are likely to deceive third parties as to the meaning and/or form of the “CE” marking and the supplementary metrology marking shall be prohibited. Any other marking may be affixed on a measuring instrument, provided that the visibility and legibility of the “CE” marking and the supplementary metrology marking is not thereby reduced.

In other words, crowns were not specifically banned from featuring on pint glasses under EU rules.

They would be prohibited if they affected the visibility of a CE mark on a pint glass or made people think that the CE mark meant something else, but this is not nearly the same as being banned outright.

The claim that crown symbols were banned from British pint glasses by the EU is therefore untrue. 

The claim is connected to an allegation – as made by David Frost last September – that the EU banned the sale of drinks in imperial units. However, as anyone who has been to a pub or bought milk in Ireland can testify, this is also untrue.

Although the EU sought to have the UK and Ireland adopt the metric system by 1 January 1995, both governments successfully sought a derogation for the use of the unit “pint” when serving beer and cider in pubs (and when selling milk in shops).

The European Commission officially ended its attempts to have both states use the metric system in 2007, when the UK was also allowed to use imperial measures like miles when measuring road distances.

This claim is therefore also untrue.


The UK’s Mail On Sunday, David Frost and Boris Johnson all claimed that EU rules banned a crown symbol from appearing on pint glasses in the UK.

The Mail on Sunday specifically claimed this was to do with the 2004 EU Measuring Instruments Directive, which required the use of the CE mark on pint glasses.

The newspaper quoted an unnamed government source as saying the directive meant the UK “could not have two competing indications of conformity”, ie the crown and the CE mark.

However, the directive does not say this. It actually states that multiple symbols are allowed on pint glasses, provided that the second symbol does not affect the visibility or legibility of a CE mark or make people think that the mark means something else.

As a result, we rate the claim: FALSE.

As per our verdict guide, this means the claim is inaccurate.

TheJournal’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here.

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