LONDONDERRY, NORTHERN IRELAND - FEBRUARY 15: A No Border No Brexit sticker can be seen close to the Hands Across the Divide peace statue on February 15, 2019 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Britain will leave the European Union on March 29 following the referendum in 2016. Many people in Northern Ireland and Ireland are concerned about a return of a so-called hard border, which could inspire unrest reminiscent of the Troubles. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
A time border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland would have 'wide-ranging practical repercussions' for individuals and companies, according to the House of Lords. © Getty

The island of Ireland risks having to cope with different times zones for half the year under EU plans to scrap changing the clocks every spring and autumn, a House of Lords committee has warned. 

For more than two decades the EU’s member states have all carried out seasonal time changes under a 1996 directive. 

But EU lawmakers voted last year to end the practice from 2021, at which point countries will have to choose whether to keep summer or winter time. That will complicate timekeeping across the bloc, which already has three time zones. 

The UK, however, is not bound by the decision now that it has left the EU. The government has signalled that it may stick to the current practice of moving the clocks an hour forward in March and back in October. That makes for lighter evenings in the summer and reduces morning darkness in the winter. 

The report by the Lords EU internal market subcommittee accused the government of having “stuck its head in the sand” over the proposals. Ministers told the committee that they were still waiting to see whether the EU regulation became law and did not made a decision. 

“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,” said Rita Donaghy, chair of the committee.

The peers said they had received “substantive evidence” that a time border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland would have “wide-ranging practical repercussions” for individuals and companies. 

Not only were there deep economic ties across the Irish border but it was also normal to rely on public services — such as schools or hospitals — on either side, the report said. “There is no question that 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.”

The Irish government carried out one opinion poll that found majority support for abolishing clock changes. Yet the same poll found 82 per cent of respondents opposed any measure that would result in different time zones on the two sides of the border. 

The committee called on the British government to carry out an assessment of the probable economic impact on trade. 

If the UK did chose to align with the EU, it would have to choose between two permanent time zones, the committee pointed out. 

Changing the clocks was proposed by British builder William Willett in 1907 in a pamphlet entitled The Waste of Daylight. The measure became law in 1916 — at which point it was adopted by Germany. 

Mr Willett, who enjoyed playing golf in the evenings, was the great-great-grandfather of Coldplay singer Chris Martin. 

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