It’s that time of year again, the ritual of trying to work out which of your electronic gadgets automatically adjust for clock changes, and which don’t. British Summer Time (BST) officially starts at 1am on Sunday 31 March, when the clocks go forward an hour to 2am.
With Brexit on the horizon, it remains to be seen whether changes to daylight savings time (DST) plans in continental Europe will have any effect on the British clocks in the future. This week MEPs voted to approve plans for European Union member states to abolish clock changes if they want.
DST has been mandatory in the EU since 2001, but the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, has been championing the change, saying: “Clock-changing must stop. Member states should themselves decide whether their citizens live in summer or winter time.”
Countries are expected to choose to either remain permanently on summer or winter time, although Portugal and Greece are among those which have previously indicated they would rather retain the present system.
Post-Brexit this could become a thorny issue on the island of Ireland, with Dublin and Belfast going an hour out of synch with each other if the UK does not also abandon the concept of DST. The argument over a hard border on the island could make way for one about a time-zone border.
Spain is grappling with an even bigger time conundrum. In the 1940s, Gen Francisco Franco moved the whole country permanently an hour forward to Central European Time, keeping it in synch with Hitler’s Germany, rather than with neighbouring Portugal and the countries with which it shares longitude. It means that in the westernmost parts of Spain, sunrise can sometimes be as late as 8:56am. In 2016, the Spanish government began to look into solving the problem by permanently shifting the country back to Greenwich Mean Time.
It is more than a 100 years since the changing the clocks was first established in the UK under the Summer Time Act 1916. Despite the results of the EU survey suggesting that 82% of British respondents wanted to abolish DST, there does not seem to be any great political will to do so. Which means we can still all look forward to gaining an hour’s sleep when the clocks go back again on Sunday 27 October.