EU Internal Market Sub-Committee publishes its report on the future of clock changes.
The report examines the implications for the UK of the European Commission's proposal to end seasonal clock changes in the EU. It considers the two alternative scenarios arising for the UK, should the proposal be adopted: non-aligning, and having a varying time difference with EU neighbours; or aligning, and having to adopt either winter-time or summer-time on a permanent basis. While non-alignment could negatively affect businesses and people in Northern Ireland, a permanent time zone could have major implications for other UK citizens, particularly in Scotland and the north of England.
The report finds that considerably more evidence would be needed for the Government to make that complex decision. The Government should therefore undertake preparatory work, including by reviewing or commissioning relevant research on how clock changes affect a range of issues, from health and road safety to trade, and devising a strategy for consultation.
In October 2018, this Committee published a Subsidiarity Assessment of the Commission’s proposal to end clock changes, where it took the view that the issue did not warrant action at EU level and the proposal was therefore a breach of subsidiarity. This Assessment was agreed by the House and submitted as a formal Reasoned Opinion, or ‘yellow card’, to the European Commission. The inquiry has only reinforced the Committee’s view that action on clock changes at EU level is unwarranted.
Chair of the EU Internal Market Sub-Committee, Baroness Donaghy, said:
“So far the Government has stuck its head in the sand on the EU Commission’s proposal, hoping that it goes away. However, if it doesn’t, we could be caught unaware and unprepared to make a decision, leaving the island of Ireland with two time zones at different times of the year and causing difficulties for people and businesses in Northern Ireland. “
“This is a complex issue with a range of consequences for different industries and people in the United Kingdom. If the UK chose to align itself with the EU, it would need to decide which permanent time zone it should adopt. Before making a final decision, the Government must fully examine the implications of aligning or non-aligning with the EU, look at and where necessary commission relevant research and give the public and other stakeholders an opportunity to have their say.”
- The Committee received no compelling evidence to suggest that the current system of seasonal changes does not work well for the UK.
- The EU Commission has little evidence that the abolition of clock changes would make material improvements over the status quo. It should carry out a full impact assessment so that Member States can consider the proposal in the light of all the relevant evidence.
- The Committee was surprised at the lack of conclusive evidence regarding the effects of clock changes on a range of issues, including health and wellbeing, agriculture and road safety. More needs to be done to help the UK make an evidence-based decision on its time arrangements.
- A time border would have enormous practical implications for firms and citizens in Northern Ireland, disrupting well-established ways of doing business and organising daily life.
- It is not clear whether a future Northern Ireland Executive would, under the current EU proposal and the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, be free to choose between having a one-hour time difference for part of the year with the Republic of Ireland or with the rest of the UK. Even if Northern Ireland has a free choice, either option could have challenging consequences for people in and trade between Northern Ireland, Ireland and Great Britain.