Brexit bombshell: Will deal create chaos for UK’s time zones?

The European Parliament last year voted to scrap the twice-yearly changing of the clocks to accommodate extra daylight hours. Under an EU directive, the remaining 27 states currently switch to summer time hours on the last Sunday of March and back to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on the last Sunday of October – a pattern the UK follows.

But under a potential swap by Brussels to a “double summer time” arrangement, Lords have warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s withdrawal agreement could see Northern Ireland legally obliged to be one hour ahead for six months every year.

Ireland will have one change all year round, if we change, half the year will presumably be in alignment with them. And the other half we won’t

Dr Heather Rolfe

This would mean the 1.8 million people living in the six counties would follow summer time hours, even when those in Great Britain wind their clocks back by 60 minutes in the autumn.

Dr Heather Rolfe, head of research at Demos, recently represented the UK-based think tank at the European Union committee on the EU internal market about discontinuing seasonal changes.

Dr Rolfe revealed to how the proposals could lead to “complications” for the Irish border.

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She said: “The proposal of the European Union is now to scrap seasonal clock changes and so that every European country won’t change their time so they will then have to choose a single time to operate to all year round.

“Now, we’re out of the EU, we don’t have to go along with it.

“But obviously, if we don’t, there could be complications, particularly for the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland if we don’t change, and Ireland does change this.

“Ireland will have one change all year round, if we change, half the year will presumably be in alignment with them. And the other half we won’t.”


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A recent YouGov poll found 44 percent of people in the United Kingdom in favour of continuing to change the clocks.

In total 39 percent said they should stop and 17 percent said they did not know.

Dr Rolfe believes it is those in the third category which are key.

She said: “So the consultations that have been done, including from the EU, sound overwhelming support for changing the clocks, but the problem is when you have a consultation, you get people who are really fired-up about the issue and the EU consultation had a very low response rate from the UK in a very high response rate from Germany.

“It’s sort of split, but the crucial thing is the 17 percent of people who don’t know, because it’s one of those issues on which some people are very fired-up and feel it affects them personally and don’t really consider the opinions or the preferences of other people.

“Some people haven’t really given that much thought.

“What is important actually is the support for changing the clocks is much higher in Scotland than elsewhere, so there 56 percent of people think that the clock changes should continue.”

What is beyond dispute is how the Irish border issue is key.

Dr Rolfe said: “The real issue is Ireland because Ireland is obviously still a member of the EU and does not want to be out of sync with the UK because it will create havoc with the border, given that a large number of people work and travel across borders and synchronising times and so on would be very problematic.

“As far as Ireland is concerned, it depends on whether the UK decides actually to end the time difference.

“I do think that it’s time that we did consider whether we do want to change the clocks twice a year, and whether we just want to stick to one and if we do want to stick to one, then the evidence is that most people would prefer permanent summertime because they prefer lighter evening and the reason for that is socialising.”

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