Following Brexit, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland could have two different time zones.
Brexit has raised many questions on many issues from travel to trade. However, we may just have witnessed one of the last all-island shifts in time as a result of plans voted upon by the European Parliament.
In the latest twist caused by the ongoing Brexit fiasco, it has been revealed that the island of Ireland could soon be operating under two separate time zones.
‘Time Border Zone’
The Emerald Isle faces the prospect of a ‘Time Border Zone’ whenever Britain leaves the European Union (EU), which has now been pushed back to January 2020.
This has come about following the European Parliament’s (EP) vote to scrap the daylight savings time across the European bloc. The idea was submitted by the European Commission in September 2018.
The decision means that EU nations will no longer move their clocks back an hour every autumn and forward again in the spring of the following year.
Vote by the European Parliament
The vote was taken in March of this year and will come into effect across the EU from April 2021 if it receives the necessary backing from the EU’s member states.
This would mean that, as long as the North of Ireland remains part of the UK, for half of the year it will be one hour ahead of the south of Ireland, who would operate under the same time zone year-round.
The change in law may not be as swift as expected, as the abolition of the time-shift would apply to the UK for as long as it remains in the EU and under the transition period from when Britain does eventually leave the bloc.
Britain would, for as long as the status quo applies, still change from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time for winter months after its withdrawal from the EU.
Consent of member states still required
Complications still remain around the issue within the EU. Due to legal rules governing the European Union, the decision to remove the time-shifting still requires the consent of the EU’s member states.
EU rules dictate that a “qualified majority” of member states’ backing is required for the change to come into force. 55% of member states representing at least 65% of the EU population must back the move before it comes into effect.
The law as it stands
Current EU law on the matter determines that in every member state, the clocks move forward an hour together on the final Sunday in March and then move back on the final Sunday in October.
The draft directive on abolishing shifts in time zones
Under the draft directive that will abolish shifts in time zones if voted upon favourably, member states will be able to choose between remaining on a “permanent summer” time or “permanent winter” time.
Those countries that wish to remain on the former would adjust their clocks for the final time on the last Sunday in March 2021. For the latter, countries would change their time for the last time on the last Sunday of October 2021.
Response of governments
Despite the vote of the European Parliament, the British government at this stage has no plans to follow Europe’s lead on this issue.
The Irish Government, for its part, plans to vote against the directive as it wishes to continue shifting time back and forward as is currently the case.
However, due to the low population of Ireland in proportion to the EU’s overall population, the directive will ultimately be won or lost depending upon the decision of the larger European states.
Support for the draft directive
Indeed, the draft directive was passed overwhelmingly in the EP, by 410 votes to 192, and could signal the level of support the directive will receive from member states.
A survey conducted by the European Commission in relation to the proposal found that 84% of respondents were in favour of the directive, from a total of 4.6 million responses.
Concerns about time border zone on the island of Ireland
In December 2018, it was revealed that the British Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy raised concerns about the possibility that Ireland could have two time zones for a large proportion of the year.
Britain and Ireland have operated under separate time zones before. However, following the Easter Rising in Dublin during April 1916, the House of Commons in London abolished the Dublin Mean Time, which was 25 minutes behind London, and passed the 1916 Summer Time Act.
Under the new law, the British clocks went back an hour during the winter of 1916 and the Irish clocks only went back by 35 minutes to harmonise the time zones between the two nations.