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Northern Ireland could be left in different time zone to rest of UK under EU plans, peers warn

3 min read

Northern Ireland could be left in a different time zone to rest of UK under plans being considered in Brussels, an influential group of peers have warned.

Ministers could be caught "unaware and unprepared" by EU proposals to scrap daylight saving time if they refuse to comply with the changes, according to a new report from the Lord's EU Committee.

In March 2019, MEPs voted to abolish the twice-yearly clock change after an EU-wide public consultation found 84% were in favour of dumping the current arrangements.

But UK ministers suggested they would resist the changes due to the benefits of the annual time changes for those living in the nothern-most regions of the country.

The proposals, set to come into force in March 2021, would mean member states would be left responsible for deciding whether to choose between permanent summer or winter time.

But according to the report from the Lord's EU Internal Market Sub-Committee, the Government's stance could leave Northern Ireland with the "challenging consequences" of having to choose whether to align with either the UK or Ireland's timezone for several months a year.

It warned "closely integrated" supply chains along the Ireland-Northern Ireland border could face disruption, while communities living on the border could face challenges when trying to access public services, such as schools or hospitals, on the other side.

The report added: "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."


Meanwhile, the aviation industry warned they could be "left in chaos" by non-alignment between the UK and the rest of the bloc, telling the Committee clock changes were "built-in to airlines business models, seasonal planning, fleet and crew planning and rostering and schedules".

Commenting on the report, committee chair 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."

She added: "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 Cabinet Office have been approached for comment.

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