And Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland could find themselves in different time zones on either side of the border, peers have said. The European Parliament last year backed a proposal which would put an end to the twice-yearly changing of the clocks to accommodate extra daylight hours.
In accordance with an EU directive, all 27 states currently switch to summer time hours on the final Sunday of March, reverting to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on the last Sunday of October – a pattern the UK follows.
However, under a potential swap by Brussels to a “double summer time” arrangement, Lords have warned the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement could see Northern Ireland legally obliged to be one hour ahead for six months every year.
It would mean 1.8 million people would continue to follow summer time hours – even when those in Great Britain have fallen back an hour in the autumn.
Northern Ireland may find itself compelled to fall in with Brussels regulations if the EU does indeed adopt double-summer time – because the agreement hammered out between the UK and the EU means Northern Ireland is committed to following EU rules on goods and agriculture in order to prevent a hard border.
Any EU-wide shift in timekeeping would apply to Ireland and, as according to the terms of the PM’s divorce treaty, Northern Ireland might have to follow suit, peers have said.
In its report, Clock changes: is it time for change?, the Lords’ EU internal market sub-committee warned: “Were this proposal (for double summer time) to become EU law under its current single market legal basis, Northern Ireland may be obliged under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement and the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland to align with the EU and thus institute a time border with Great Britain.”
The group of cross-party peers urged the Government to “give urgent further consideration” to the impact the Brexit agreement could have if the EU decided to make the summer time switch permanent.
They added: “Our inquiry has demonstrated that any such decision at EU level would have implications for the UK, notwithstanding UK withdrawal from the EU.
“The nature and significance of such implications is not, however, well understood – not least by the Government.”
Committee chairwoman Baroness Donaghy said there was even a possibility of Ireland being in a situation where it has different time-zones on either side of the border.
She added: “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.”
The report, published today , praised ministers’ “informal engagement” with counterparts in Northern Ireland on the issue, but pushed for a more detailed review to take place.
Peers have recommended reviewing research carried out in countries which have different time zones in order to identify the possible implications of time zone changes for both domestic and international businesses.
Business minister Kelly Tolhurst, giving evidence to the committee last year, said: “Anything that would create a time border in Northern Ireland we are completely opposed to, and so is the Irish government.”