The UK government faces a choice between a ‘time border’ dividing Northern Ireland from Great Britain or leaving Scotland without daylight until after 9am in winter, peers have warned.
A House of Lords committee claims the government has “stuck its head in the sand” over EU proposals to abolish daylight savings, with the impact of the Brussels still poorly understood in the UK after years of “hoping that it goes away”.
And the Scottish Government has warned that if the UK felt compelled to follow the EU’s lead, it could add to risks on the road for Scottish schoolchildren and damage the rural economy north of the border.
The European Parliament voted last year in support of a proposal that would put an end to the twice-yearly changing of the clocks. Peers have warned that Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal could force Northern Ireland to operate in a different time zone to the rest of the UK for half the year, because of a commitment to remain aligned with the EU.
“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 report by the Lords European Union committee warns.
Peers say that if the EU adopted the measure, it would have “major implications” for the UK, adding: “The nature and significance of such implications is not, however, well understood – not least by the Government.”
Responding to the committee’s inquiry, the Scottish Government said there were “specific socio-economic concerns” if daylight savings is abolished, and the National Farmers’ Union Scotland said changes “would have more pronounced implications for Scotland”.
“If clocks were not to be turned back an hour in winter, Scotland would have no daylight between 8am and 9am and children would face the dangers of travelling to school in the dark,” the Scottish Government said in its submission to the committee. A change is also likely to mean farm and other large vehicles spending more time on the roads during the hours of darkness, further adding to the risks.”
Business minister Kelly Tolhurst ruled out having two timezones in the UK while giving evidence to the committee last year, saying: “Anything that would create a time border in Northern Ireland we are completely opposed to, and so is the Irish government.”