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Fact/Fiction: Is the EU committing daylight robbery by scrapping BST?

Old news, truthfully retold. This week we ask if the EU is really calling time on a century of Brits changing our clocks?

Fact/Fiction 1352

How it was told

First of all, change your clocks if you haven’t done so already (spring forward, fall back). The official arrival of British Summer Time at the weekend was preceded by a vote in the European Parliament last week that backed scrapping the biannual time warp, effective from 2021.

But we’re no longer in the EU! Or are we? By the time 2021 comes around, who knows. Either way, as the countdown to Brexit continues, some were concerned that the EU could be stealing our sunshine, as time zone decisions made by our international neighbours may determine when we have to set our alarms in the morning. 

The main fear was that whatever time zone Ireland chose to be in would dictate Northern Ireland’s clocks. “The move could see Northern Ireland and the Republic ending up in different time zones,” warned The Sun. “Stay in single market and lose British Summer Time,” said The Times, although arguably we lost summer time a long time ago (last year’s scorcher being the exception that proves the rule).

Facts.Checked.

Let’s turn back the clock to when British Summer Time was introduced. It was builder William Willett who campaigned to get the times a-changin’ to stop the needless waste of light in summer months. His idea was to move clocks forward by 80 minutes in 20-minute jumps every week in April. He died the year before the Summer Time Act was enacted in 1916, and several decades before his great-great grandson Chris Martin started the band Coldplay, which has its own time-bending properties.

Willett was following the lead of Benjamin Franklin who first proposed the idea in 1784 to save candles. But much like candles, the reasons for retaining British Summer Time have waned through the years.

The vote passed in the EU Parliament allows each member state to decide the time they would adopt full-time based on the three time zones member states currently share. So they could stick with the system as it exists at the moment but member states can choose whether they want to stay in perpetual summer or winter from 2021. In theory, Ireland could choose to match time zones with France and Germany.

Of course, this ruling (probably) has little bearing on Britain, which could continue to operate the British Summer Time system outside the EU’s jurisdiction. The problem is, for six months of the year the time in Dublin and Belfast would be different, so in all likelihood the island of Ireland would keep the same time.

Since it’s crucially important (for at least 10 people who care very deeply about this stuff) there’s parity in all aspects between the UK and Northern Ireland, this would force the rest of the UK to follow Ireland’s lead and ditch British Summer Time altogether.

Changing clocks seasonally is an idea that is increasingly unpopular. A European Commission consultation found 84 per cent of 4.6 million respondents wanted to get rid of it, even if 70 per cent of these people were Germans. The report also highlighted the negative impact on health. The US is also looking at the value of daylight savings time, especially since many key global economies such as China, Russia and Turkey don’t waste their time changing the time twice a year.

The clock is ticking for British Summer Time, so in autumn enjoy the extra hour in bed when it comes.

Image: Miles Cole

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