18 years after the EU ordered us to remove Crown symbol from our pint glasses, Boris brings them back for Jubilee.
A Mail on Sunday front page article claims that the crown symbol on pint glasses will be reintroduced by the government to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, after the EU ordered the UK to remove them.
A version of the article, published on 29 May, was also published by the MailOnline.
The headline states: “18 years after the EU ordered us to remove Crown symbol from our pint glasses, Boris brings them back for Jubilee”, while the first line of the article reads: “Pint glasses will be adorned with a Crown for the first time in nearly 20 years after Ministers axed EU rules banning the patriotic symbol.”
The article goes on to claim that the 2004 EU Measuring Instruments Directive meant that pint glasses used in the UK were required to use “the EU-wide 'CE mark' to demonstrate conformity with EU rules”. It quotes an unnamed government source who claims “the legal requirement to use the CE mark led to the effective removal of the Crown symbol because the UK 'could not have two competing indications of conformity'”.
It’s true that the UK was required to use the CE mark, but this didn’t mean the crown symbol was banned. However, it did mean that use of the crown became decorative, rather than a marker of accuracy.
What does the legislation say?
The 2004 EU directive, which came into force in 2006, meant that all pint glasses, as well as other measuring instruments, used in EU member states were required to bear a CE mark. CE stands for Conformité Européenne, which translates from French to “European Conformity”.
Along with the rest of the EU member states, the UK began to use CE markings after the legislation came into effect in order to show that the item (in this case, a pint glass) held an accurate measure.
Prior to 2006, the UK used crown symbols on pint glasses in order to signify that the glass held an accurate measure of liquid.
To put it simply, pint glasses were required to bear the CE marking under the 2006 directive, but crown symbols were not “banned” and the UK was not “ordered to remove them from glasses”.
Pint glasses which had already been marked with the crown symbol were also allowed to remain in circulation after 2006.
The crown symbol would have been prohibited if it obscured the CE marking, for example, and it would not have been permitted as an indicator of an accurate measure, but the symbol was never banned entirely.
According to trade magazine The Drinks Business, pint glasses “could still have the crown symbol on, but it became purely decorative rather than an indicator of the glass being verified as a 568ml container”.
Article 7 of the legislation goes into detail about the way in which the CE marking should be applied to measuring instruments. Section 3 of Article 7 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 its fact check of the same claim, a spokesperson for the European Commission pointed Irish publication The Journal towards the same part of the legislation.
Following Brexit, CE marking has been replaced in the UK by UKCA marking.
What has the UK government and the EU said?
A similar claim to the Mail on Sunday’s also emerged on 31 December 2021, when it was included in a press release published by Number 10 in order to mark one year of the trade deal between the UK and the EU.
In a statement issued with the press release, Boris Johnson said: “From simplifying the EU’s mind-bogglingly complex beer and wine duties to proudly restoring the crown stamp onto the side of pint glasses, we’re cutting back on EU red tape and bureaucracy and restoring common sense to our rulebook.”
At the time a spokesperson for the European Commission denied that EU rules had stopped the UK from having the crown symbol on glasses, telling the BBC: “EU law does not prevent markings from being placed on products, so long as it does not overlap or be confused with the CE mark."
Full Fact asked the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy about the EU’s statement denying a ban on the crown symbol but a spokesperson declined to comment.
We contacted the Mail on Sunday for comment, but did not receive a response.
Image courtesy of James Cridland