The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, has today announced that Ireland will oppose the EU proposal to end seasonal clock changes. The Government’s decision not to support any proposal which could result in different time zones on the island of Ireland and disruption to the EU Single Market follows the recommendation of an Interdepartmental Steering Group which included a public consultation exercise.
Minister Flanagan said: “While I acknowledge that many favour ending the practice of seasonal clock changes, the proposal is not a straightforward one.
“It would be profoundly serious if two different time zones were to exist on the island of Ireland, creating significant unnecessary problems for people living on the border and for the all-island economy.
“I am heartened to note that the Government’s decision today is in agreement with 82% of the public in a representative opinion poll held as part of the consultative process.”
The Government also shares the concern of a number of Member States that the current proposal may result in a ‘patchwork’ of timezones across the EU. In the current system, time zones are solely determined by geographic location on an east to west basis. The proposal, as drafted, suggests that each country may choose summer or winter time year round. The Government noted that this proposal, which could result in Member States of similar latitudes choosing different times, could negatively impact the functioning of the the Single Market.
The Department of Justice and Equality has led consultations and analysis on the Commission proposal.
In order to gauge the opinion of the Irish public, industry and other stakeholder groups - and to allow for consideration of any additional or unforeseen implications of the proposal - the Department‘s public consultation process comprised an opinion poll, a public survey and submissions from key stakeholder groups. The opinion poll, conducted by Amárach Research, included a sample of 1,000 respondents aligned with the national population. Over 16,000 responses were received for the survey and over 50 submissions were made by key stakeholders.
While the consultation highlighted that the public would generally favour brighter evenings in winter, allowing for instance for greater access to sporting and leisure activities, particular sectoral implications were raised by various groups. In particular, 82% of those surveyed in the Amárach poll were not in favour of any measure that resulted in different timezones on the island. Other stakeholder submissions raised concerns around agriculture, education, health, tourism, trade, utility costs and transport schedules.
A copy of the Interdepartmental Working Group report and stakeholder submissions received from organisations can be read at http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Report_of_the_Interdepartmental_Group_on_EU_Proposal_to_Discontinue_Seasonal_Clock_Changes.pdf/Files/Report_of_the_Interdepartmental_Group_on_EU_Proposal_to_Discontinue_Seasonal_Clock_Changes.pdf
Notes for Editors:
History of clock changes
Clocks are currently changed twice each year in order to cater for the changing patterns of daylight and to match the hours of available daylight to people’s daily activities. Summer time was first introduced in Ireland in 1916.
EU legislation on summer time was first introduced in 1980 following four years of negotiation. However, it took a total of nine directives, adopted over a time span of 20 years, to put a uniform EU-wide system in place. Since 2001, all Member States switch to summer time on the last Sunday of March and switch back to their standard time (winter time) on the last Sunday of October. The objective of the EU Directive was to harmonise existing national arrangements that were diverging, thereby ensuring a harmonised approach to the time switch within the single market.
Currently there are three standard time zones in the EU, organised on a geographic basis:
Western European Time (Ireland, Portugal, UK);
Central European Time (17 Member States); and Eastern European Time (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania).
Ireland is on GMT during the winter time period and moves to GMT+1 in summer time.
Proposed abolition of clock changes
Following a resolution from the European Parliament in February 2018, and an EU wide consultation last summer, in September 2018 the European Commission published a proposal to abolish seasonal clock changes. Under the current version of the proposal, the practice of a twice-yearly clock change would cease from 2021.
The proposal as currently outlined is:
- the last mandatory change to summer time would take place on 28 March 2021;
- after this, Member States who wish to remain on winter time would make one last seasonal clock change on 31 October 2021 (this decision must be notified to the Commission by 1 April 2020).
Members States will remain free to choose their Standard time, on the condition that they give 18 months’ notice to the Commission.
While the European Parliament voted in favour of the proposal on 26 March 2019, this is not a final decision. Negotiation with the Council of Ministers is still necessary and final approval will be a co-decision of the EU Parliament and the Council of Ministers.
Eventual agreement to the outcome of the negotiations in Council will be by a Qualified Majority Vote and in the European Parliament by a further Plenary vote. Qualified Majority Vote means that the Council requires the approval of 55% of Member States (16), which must represent at least 65% of the EU's population.