Move to put RoI and NI hour apart is ‘madcap’

Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben, at the House of Commons in Westminster, London. Pic by Philip Toscano/PA Wire
Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben, at the House of Commons in Westminster, London. Pic by Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Plans to do away with seasonal clock changes within the European Union that could lead to Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic being in different time zones for several months each year have been branded “foolish” and “totally unnecessary”.

Two senior unionist politicians hit out at the European Commission’s proposals after it emerged that the Irish government is to hold a public consultation on the issue.

Jim Nicholson MEP.' Pic by Pacemaker

Jim Nicholson MEP.' Pic by Pacemaker

If EU states give the plans the go-ahead, a situation could arise after Brexit where clocks in Northern Ireland continue to be put forward an hour at the end of March and back one hour at the end of October, while there are no changes in the Irish Republic. That would create a bizarre situation where either side of the border is in a different time zone for several months of the year.

Considering that possibility, Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson said: “It would be quite foolish to have two different time zones. It could make things extremely difficult for many people.”

Describing the commission’s proposals as “extremely concerning”, Mr Nicholson added: “It seems to me that yet again the European Commission and some MEPs have learned all the wrong lessons from Brexit. I just consider it to be absolutely unnecessary, not needed, and with all the other problems we have it beggars belief that some in Brussels want to mess around with the clock.”

The DUP’s Brexit spokesman, Sammy Wilson MP, described the commission’s plan as “a madcap idea” and warned that it could lead to “a totally farcical situation.”

Sammy Wilson blamed the 'intransigence' of the EU for a likely no-deal Brexit

Sammy Wilson blamed the 'intransigence' of the EU for a likely no-deal Brexit

“It would be mad for the Irish government to say they don’t want a hard border after Brexit yet they are now talking about the possibility of different time zones,” he said.

“If the EU pushes ahead with this nonsense it’s another reason for them (Ireland) to think about leaving the EU with us. It seems they have more in common with us than they have with the EU.

“If they (the Irish government) thought out the practicalities of it they would have to demand a derogation from any such directive, if a directive like that came about. Or if they couldn’t get a derogation from it then they really would have to contemplate their membership of the EU.”

At present, citizens in all 28 EU countries move their clocks an hour forward on the last Sunday in March and switch back to wintertime on the final Sunday in October.

But under the proposals announced by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, the last mandatory seasonal clock change in EU states could take place on March 31 next year.