Britain eyes time management, considers switching to Central European Time
November 6, 2011 4:00 AM
By Dan Majors Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It's one thing to change the clocks, as most Americans did this morning with the end of daylight saving time. But it's quite another to change a way of life.
Members of Britain's Parliament are bringing back an effort to switch the island nation's time to Central European Time, turning their clocks ahead another hour for good.
Britain is one hour behind Spain, France, Germany and Italy. Other nations in that zone include Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Poland, Croatia, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Hungary and Vatican City.
Portugal, on Europe's west coast, is in the same time zone as Britain.
Supporters, including MP Rebecca Harris, say the change could boost England's economy by putting it on the same schedule as the nations in the nearby continent. Lighter evenings also could promote outdoor activities, make driving safer and reduce crime.
Ms. Harris has proposed a government study of the issue which, if its findings warrant, would lead to a three-year experiment.
"Even opponents shouldn't object to that," she said in a post on her website. The matter goes before the members next month.
But many opponents are entrenched. They insist that northern regions of Great Britain, especially northern England and Scotland, would have longer, darker mornings, meaning treacherous conditions for school children. Sunrise in Scotland could come as late as 10 a.m. during some winter months.
Britain has experimented with later hours before -- most notably during World War II -- but the nation always reverts.
"It's been a thorn in the side of British business and industry for 40 years," said Duquesne University Professor Joe Coohill, who specializes in British and Irish history.
"Changing time in Britain is controversial because it shows two main strains of idea in the British future," Mr. Coohill said. "One side wants to be more connected with Europe. Eighty percent of British trade is with people on the continent, and they say, 'Let's not be silly.'
"But this goes against the long-standing British tradition of doing things differently. They are proud of being slow to change because, they say, it means they don't make as many blunders. Their basic conservative nature has saved them from instability and revolution."
Matthew Neufeld, a University of Saskatchewan lecturer specializing in British history, lived four of the past six years in Great Britain. He agreed that the resistance to change there is strong.
"From a cultural point of view, it might be important to some British people to remain distinct from the rest of the continent," he said. "Despite being part of the European Union, there are British people who don't like to be identified as being European. It would rub some people the wrong way."
British Prime Minister David Cameron said he is interested in the idea of changing the country's time zone, but he stressed that semiautonomous authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would need to agree.
• Did you remember to turn back your clocks one hour this morning?