It looks as if the UK govt is set to publish proposals (not a white paper) this coming week about moving Britain onto Central European Time (CET). This is not official government policy but merely has the backing of a number of key MPs – notably Tim Yeo. The old canard of school-children going to school in the dark and Scottish farmers not liking the notion of abandoning GMT entirely will no doubt be trotted out in the coming weeks and months.
But the plain economic fact is that most of Britain’s business is done with Western Europe. Most goods are imported from there and most exported to there. Every day at least 4 hours of vital communication time is lost between vital trading partners by sheer dent of the time difference.
When Brits start work in the morning, Germans and Italians etc have already done at least an hour (please keep lazy stereotyping out of this). Then when the Continentals go to lunch, another hour of direct communication is lost and when we take our lunch in GMT land, a third hour is lost. The final hour is lost when CET trading partners go home in the evening, which is still only the mid afternoon for Britain, Portugal and Ireland.
There seems to be a visceral and dare I sane inane view in Britain, that being on the same time as France or Germany is some sort of threat to sovereignty – as if it might make it easier for Frau Merkel to make that long postponed invasion of Dover.
The Federation of Small Business reckons there might be £1billion worth of savings to UK companies if Britain was in the same time zone with Western Europe.
Tim Yeo says the extra light in the evenings would save 100 lives a year in car accidents and that the tourist industry into Britain would be a big winner.
But apart from all those logical arguments, if you were given a choice between a brighter morning as you head (cold and weary) into work or a brighter evening after work when you are awake and ‘up for it’ which would you prefer?
Mornings for the vast majority of people are spent either in bed or commuting to work – many to a place they can’t stand and to see people they can’t bear every day. Evenings – surely are the opposite of that.
By the way, if Britain did stay on CET, it could create a ridiculous situation with 2 time zones on the island of Ireland.
Here’s a piece I did for the Six and Ten on BBC news last autumn as Britain reverted back to GMT. Be warned: it’s far more balanced than this blog