Behind the Headlines

“The EU wants to ban British Summer Time and Brexit might mean we can't stop it.” Really?

Written on 10/29/2018

What’s the story?

Citing a House of Lords report, the Daily Mirror claims that “The EU wants to ban British Summer Time, and there may be nothing we can do to stop it.”  Read more on the Mirror website.

How reliable is it?

Seriously misleading. The Commission, after receiving views of over 4 million citizens, has submitted a proposal to end the twice-a-year change of clocks that all EU countries currently follow. This proposal will only take effect if approved by national ministers from EU countries and by elected MEPs.

What's the background?

  • All EU countries switch their clocks back by an hour every autumn and forward every spring in order to avail of extra daylight in the summer evenings and save energy. Evidence.
  • Many countries across the world started to do so as long ago as World War One or Two, others during the energy crisis of the 1970s. Evidence.
  • However, they initially used different dates to change their clocks, causing havoc for cross-border ferry, air, and train timetables. Evidence.
  • The EU adopted common rules for the date, ensuring that each country that chose to change its clocks did so on the same day. Evidence.
  • But all EU countries did indeed choose to change their clocks on the same day, so effectively this became a joint decision, taken at EU level. Evidence.
  • That did not mean all EU countries are on the same time, as they are in three different time zones: Western European Time (=GMT in Winter), Central European Time and Eastern European Time, according to their own choice, usually based on geographical location. Evidence.
  • The benefits of changing the clock have been questioned in recent years. It is argued that technological advancements and shifts in working patterns have negated a number of the benefits of daylight savings. Evidence.
  • Research suggest that there is only a 0.5% to 2.5% saving in energy and there are possible health impacts, with studies showing people can lose around 40 minutes of sleep when switching to summer time. Evidence.  
  • Some countries outside the EU have decided to no longer change their clocks. Evidence.
  • The European Commission therefore carried out an online consultation, open to all EU citizens, into whether the EU should continue to do so. Evidence.
  • Around 4.6 million EU citizens participated in the consultation, which ran from 4th July to 16th August 2018, with 84% supporting an end to changing the clocks Evidence.
  • UK citizens had the opportunity to express their view on the matter and influence EU policy, however the UK had the lowest participation rate of any EU country. Evidence.
  • The Commission then submitted a proposal to be considered by elected representatives from all member countries in the European Parliament and the Council of ministers. Evidence.  
  • Lord Whitty, Chair of Lords EU Internal Market sub committee has claimed that ending daylight saving “goes beyond its (the EU) remit and is not in compliance with the principle of subsidiarity” and should be a decision for national government's. Evidence.   
  • However, the UK never opposed previous EU decisions to standardise time changes across the EU. Evidence.
  • If the UK leaves the EU, it will no longer have a say on the EU-wide decision on whether to change clocks, or on the dates chosen. However, it is likely to follow the EU decision anyway, in order to avoid Northern Ireland finding itself in a situation where it has an hour’s time difference with the rest of Ireland, especially given that the border goes through the middle of villages. Evidence.

This Behind the Headlines Briefing was first published on the DoorstepEU app: