By PJ Cunningham
While virtually all attention has been focused on the economic fallout in the parting of the ways after Brexit, Ireland and Britain could end up out of sync in more ways than one.
Last week, the European Parliament voted to scrap the twice a year changing of the clocks – putting them back (in autumn) and forward (in Spring). It agreed permanent summer time from April 2021.
The UK is known to favour the status quo.
That could mean that in two years from now the island of Ireland would have two different times, north and south, as the Republic and the UK find themselves in different time zones.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made clear the last thing he wanted on top of the problems surrounding Brexit was to create different time zones to complicate travel and business transactions between our nearest neighbours.
“The truth is that the Government has not taken a position on it yet, nor have we discussed it,” he explained, adding that he would seek the views of other parties in Leinster House.
He said they may even look at indicative votes mechanisms such as are being used in the House of Commons last week and this week.
“We have plenty of time to make this decision, no pun intended. I could not and certainly would not wish to countenance a situation whereby Northern Ireland was in a different time zone from the rest of Ireland,” he stressed.
Ireland’s Labour Party leader, Brendan Howlin told the Dáil that Ireland would be in a “difficult position” as Britain will be leaving the EU and will almost definitely keep the habit of changing times twice a year.
Irish MEP Deirdre Clune believed it is time for change because the current arrangement does not confer “the expected benefits, such as energy savings. Instead, there are serious warnings from doctors about health hazards.”
She also emphasised that there would be positive spin-offs for both road safety and the economy.
Daylight Saving Time was first introduced over 100 years ago during World War I, and re-introduced during the 1970s oil crisis to save energy by prolonging daylight in the summer evenings.
Last week’s European Parliament vote strengthens those promoting the idea and draft legislation will now be introduced as each member state is allowed to decide for itself.
The proposed changes were originally due to be introduced next year but were deferred until 2021 to allow all sides ponder the pros and cons.
MEPs voted overwhelmingly to end changing the clocks – by 410 to 192 – following an EU-wide survey which said 84 per cent of respondents (many of them in Germany) wanted a permanent time zone without seasonal adjustment.
Violeta Bulc, the EU transport commissioner, said there is strong demand for overall co-ordination: “No one wants to see a patchwork of time zones within EU.”
The US – where only Hawaii and most of Arizona don’t adjust their clocks – has also tinkered with the idea of switching away from daylight saving time but so far legislators have failed to get sufficient support to abolish it.
In 2011 Russia switched to permanent summer time but changed back three years later, following widespread public complaints, to permanent winter time.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world doesn’t have time to mess around with clocks twice a year and stays the same all year through.
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