Friday, 13 August 2010

UK may switch to continental time zone

Well after hearing this news about David Cameron proposing to move the UK clocks permanently forward an hour to match the time zone of continental Europe, I must say I am very opposed! Well, only because it would mean I'd have to come in to work an hour earlier, since at the moment I have the advantage of working British hours while in Brussels. But actually I have to say I am very confused about what exactly Cameron is proposing here, and the British press coverage isn't helping.

According to this morning's papers, Cameron wants to move the UK into "permanent summer time," setting British clocks forward one hour year-round. He says he may make such a proposal in the Fall, and if it passes that would mean that instead of "falling back" an hour in October, British clocks would remain on British Summer Time. But at the same time, the rest of Europe would fall back an hour (all European countries observe daylight savings time). That would mean the UK and France would suddenly be in the same time zone for the first time ever!

But what's unclear about this proposal is this - what happens in the spring when it's time to set the clocks forward again? Will the UK remain unchanged while the rest of Europe "springs forward"? This would create a situation where the UK is in the same time zone as continental Europe half the year, but in a different one the other half. More than a little confusing! Of course this kind of disparity does exist in the US. The state of Arizona does not follow Daylight Savings Time, and until 2006 Indiana didn't either. That meant if you lived in Gary, Indiana and commuted into Chicago for work, for half the year your home and workplace were in the same time zone, but for the other half they were not. It's mighty confusing I would imagine, but I suppose you would get used to it after awhile.

Incredibly, today's Daily Mail article on the subject manages to devote several hundred words to this without addressing this question. They seem to be saying that the above scenario would be the case, but then they go on to say that this would move the UK to the continent's time zone. Well, yes...but only for half the year. The Daily Mail seems more obsessed with the question of whether Scotland would agree to this. Never miss a trick for some Scot-bashing!

Perhaps instead the plan is to permanently move the UK out of GMT, and to continue "springing forward" every year as before, effectively giving the UK 'double summer time'. That's one option I guess, but is Cameron really suggesting that the British, who invented Greenwich Mean Time, are going to move themselves out of it? I suppose it would exist as it does in the summer months, when all of the UK is on BST except at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, which remains in GMT year-round.

But what would become of poor Ireland, and Portugal? Northern Ireland would suddenly be in a different time zone than the Republic of Ireland. That would indeed be a strange situation. It seems to me this plan isn't very well thought through. But I suppose more details on it will be forthcoming.


itinerantlondoner said...

They've been talking about this for years, and most experts think it would be a good thing, and the only objection is always Scotland. And while the articles don't make it clear, the proposal is basically to move us fully on to the same time as continental europe - i.e. GMT+1 in the winter and GMT+2 in the summer, and therefore yes, abandoning GMT altogether (which I think would be fine even for the Daily Mail - I mean, even though we would no longer use GMT as our national time zone, it would still be called GMT and the Prime Meridian would still go through the UK. Bring it on, I say.

Pedro said...

In a country that is fiercely possessive of miles and pounds, and still broadcasts farenheit, it will never happen. I want it. It's sensible. But it just won't happen.

Blaat said...

It's not like Britain would end up being the only country in the "wrong" time zone. Spain, France, Benelux should, on paper, be following GMT instead CET.

Anonymous said...

hrrm. I don't know. I'm only just 20, and everyone of my age group, at the schools I've been within - sheffield, devon, kent - dover area, close to france, and now mid wales... all:-
- prefer the euro
- really want to finish converting to metric
- and use celsius, not really understanding fahrenheit.
this includes friends that haven't been to uni, and have turned into baby making machines... I have never lived in London. maybe this has a bearing.

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