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Boris Johnson has listed the return of crowns to pint glasses as one of the Brexit wins of 2021.

“But that’s not all. 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.”

I did find this article from 2012 saying the EU would require a CE mark to certify the glasses were of the correct size.

Consequently, the new glasses now appearing in British pubs and bars carry a CE mark - which, in French, stands for European Conformity'.

But nothing in the article suggests the EU prevented the tradition crown marking being added to a glass as well.

Was it simply an economic issue, extra costs of getting two engravings? Or did the EU actually ban the use of the crown markings? Or was the UK allowed to use the crown marking on pint glasses even when it was a member of the European Union?

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50

According to this 2007 article, the European Commission confirmed that the UK could indeed go on printing the crown on pint glasses, as long as it wasn't confused with the CE marking. The Tories even hailed this as a victory.

The EU Commission confirmed that the crown stamp could be used alongside the CE marking:

In response to a letter from Conservative MEP John Bowis, Vice-President of the European Commission Gunter Verheugen explained that national markings indicating the reliability of the measurement are not allowed next to the CE marking.

However, he added that if the crown stamp was now considered as voluntary and meaning something else, "a Crown stamp look-alike could naturally be affixed to the glass, as long as it is done in such a way that it is not confused with the CE marking."​

Conservative MEPs John Bowis and Malcolm Harbour blamed the problem on UK authorities interpretation of the EU Directive, rather than the EU itself, and were pleased at the outcome:

John Bowis MEP said: "This always appeared to be a case of over-interpretation of a Directive by the UK authorities. I do not believe the Crown marking would deceive the public about the meaning or form of the CE marking. On the contrary, it would reinforce consumer confidence.​

Conservative MEP Malcolm Harbour, Internal Market Spokesman, has also been working closely on this issue.

He added: "This is another example of British civil servants interpreting EU law in an excessively pernickety way. We always considered that a dual marking would not confuse consumers and are pleased that the Commission has confirmed our view."

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    Not quite - the directive allowed crowns to be put on pint glasses as decoration. But this did not allow the UK government to require crowns before such glasses could be used in the UK, which had been an earlier position and apparently may become the future position post Brexit.
    – Henry
    Jan 4 at 20:32
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    I don't think the traditionalists would have been happy just using the crown symbol for decoration. They wanted it to mean something: to restore an ancient tradition of British State control over the quality of a popular and emotive product. When Boris talks of "proudly restoring the crown stamp" he's not talking of decoration, he's talking of taking back control. The man speaks in metaphors. Jan 5 at 11:09
  • 2
    [Incidentally, the matter of quality control over beer is equally emotive in Germany, with a long history of tension between EU harmonisation and the ancient German (or Bavarian) Reinheitsgebot that controls permitted ingredients.] Jan 5 at 11:15
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The Directive 2004/22/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on measuring instruments is relevant.

The BBC News reported in 2007 that it would come into force:

Brewers battle to save Crown mark

Nine of Britain's biggest brewing and pub companies are urging the prime minister to stop the Crown symbol on beer glasses being scrapped.

The Crown has been in use since 1699 as a guarantee of the size of pints and half pints. But now it is set to disappear, replaced by a European Union-wide "CE" mark instead.

Campaigners say the change is another example of "excessive interference" by bureaucrats in Brussels. The EU's Measuring Instruments Directive came into force last October and requires the UK to phase out the Crown in favour of the Conformite Europeenne logo.


The Directive's scope does include drinking glasses:

DEFINITIONS

Capacity serving measure
A capacity measure (such as a drinking glass, jug or thimble measure) designed to determine a specified volume of a liquid (other than a pharmaceutical product) which is sold for immediate consumption.


Whether the previous Crown imperial measure mark was banned, isn't obvious. The next clause suggests that Member States may decide not to use the CE mark:

(6) The principle of optionality introduced by this Directive, whereby Member States may exercise their right to decide whether or not to regulate any of the instruments covered by this Directive, should be applicable only to the extent that this will not cause unfair competition.

However it also states that Member States must not prevent the use of the CE mark:

(17) Member States should not impede the placing on the market and/or putting into use of measuring instruments that carry the "CE" marking and supplementary metrology marking in accordance with the provisions of this Directive.

but these next clauses seem to contradict (6) above:

(18) Member States should take appropriate action to prevent non-complying measuring instruments from being placed on the market and/or put into use. Adequate cooperation between the competent authorities of the Member States is therefore necessary to ensure a Community-wide effect of this objective.

(21) National specifications concerning the appropriate national requirements in use should not interfere with the provisions of this Directive on "putting into use".


This next clause seems to suggest that other marks in addition to the CE mark may be used, but not so as to confuse:

Article 7

  1. 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.

I presume this means that the drinking glass cannot bear two certification marks (which might have differing regulations about accuracy etc).


The document is a legal document, and so the meanings may not be obvious to the casual reader.

I can't find any clause that specifically bans the use of the Crown mark, but a lawyer might argue that the clauses all together do amount to that.

I would welcome anyone else throwing more light on the matter (especially if it has a lovely golden hue to it).

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  • Not trying to stifle the discussion, but just cleaning up the page. This conversation has been moved to chat.
    – fredsbend
    Jan 4 at 15:49
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Yes and no. The reason the Crown symbol could not be placed on pint glasses between 2006 and 2020 was regulation 21(2) of The Capacity Serving Measures (Intoxicating Liquor) Regulations 1988:

No capacity serving measure shall be stamped if it bears any other mark which, in the opinion of the inspector, might reasonably be mistaken for the stamp or an expression of approval or guarantee of accuracy.

where "be stamped" means "have the Crown mark placed upon it", and the CE mark (required by the EU directive cited in @WeatherVane's answer from 2006 until the moment of Brexit) constitutes "any other mark which... might reasonably be mistaken for... an expression of approval or guarantee of accuracy".

So on the one hand, the introduction of the EU directive did indeed put a stop to the use of the Crown mark; but on the other, the British Government could, at any time, have repealed or amended regulation 21 of the 1988 regulations and reintroduced the Crown mark without having to leave the EU to do it.

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    @Jontia Not quite. The UK's transposition of the EU directive requiring the CE mark was not, in itself, "excessively pernickity"; it's just that the UK forgot to repeal an earlier bit of UK legislation that forbade the use of the Crown mark together with any other certification mark. Jan 3 at 13:44
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    In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that, in the UK between 2006 and 2020, it was simultaneously illegal to supply a domestically-manufactured pint glass without the Crown mark; and illegal to supply a pint glass without the CE mark; and illegal to supply a pint glass with both the Crown mark and the CE mark, i.e. it was illegal to supply any domestically-manufactured pint glass at all. Jan 3 at 13:52
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    That's a "No" rather than a "Yes and No" in my book. If the UK had a law saying "Don't put the crown along a CE marking", one could not pin any responsibility on the EU. The law might as well have said "Don't put the crown mark while the UK in the EU" or something.
    – einpoklum
    Jan 3 at 14:41
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    @einpoklum I was indeed in two minds as to whether it constituted "yes or no" or just "no". Jan 3 at 14:47
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    @fredsbend: I respectfully direct you to the title of this question.
    – einpoklum
    Jan 4 at 7:36

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