Metric units will have to measure up alongside feet and inches according to a new European plan aimed at boosting exports to the United States.
Imperial measures were due to disappear at the end of this year, with metric units finally replacing inches and pounds across the European Union.
But pressure from industries claiming that goods using metric specifications would not be acceptable in the US has led to a 10-year reprieve for the old-fashioned measures.
The European Union decreed more than 20 years ago that only centimetres, litres and kilograms should be used, with special exception made so that the British could drink their beer in pints.
Businesses facing labelling problems were given until the end of this year to adapt to the metric requirements.
But the European Commission this month accepted that since the US was refusing to adapt to international conventions on measurements, the old system would have to continue.
The US was criticised by Industry Commissioner Martin Bangemann, who said that 'the aim that has been pursued since 1975 of achieving a uniform worldwide system of measurement can be achieved only if the US follows the rest of the world and adopts the international system'.