Documents considered by the Committee on 24 April 2019 Contents

1Ending seasonal time changes

Committee’s assessment

Legally and politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee and the Committee on Exiting the European Union

Document details

Proposal for a Directive discontinuing seasonal changes of time and repealing Directive 2000/84/EC

Legal base

Article 114 TFEU, ordinary legislative procedure, QMV


Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Document Number

(40063), 12118/18 + ADD 1, COM(18) 639

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

1.1The proposed Directive would repeal the current EU law which requires Member States to move their clocks forward by an hour on the last Sunday in March and move them back by an hour on the last Sunday in October.1 EU laws on summertime arrangements were first introduced in 1980 to prevent uncoordinated seasonal time changes disrupting the operation of the EU’s internal market. The proposed Directive would discontinue the twice-yearly clock changes and require each Member State to decide whether to opt for permanent summer or winter time arrangements, without the possibility of introducing any seasonal variation in subsequent years. Our earlier Reports listed at the end of this chapter provide a detailed overview of the proposal.

1.2In her Explanatory Memorandum of 11 October 2018, the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility (Kelly Tolhurst MP) accepted that the legal base for the proposed Directive—Article 114 TFEU—was appropriate “to advance the harmonisation of the single market” but questioned whether the proposal would achieve this objective or whether the European Commission had demonstrated a strong evidence base to support the ending of seasonal time changes.

1.3We shared the Government’s concern and the House of Commons, acting on our recommendation, issued a Reasoned Opinion on 13 November 2018.2 We noted that the changes proposed in the Directive risked creating four functional time zones (GMT+3), resulting in greater variation than under the current arrangements, and questioned whether a legal base which seeks to approximate laws affecting the functioning of the internal market could or should be used to create more rather than less divergence.3 In her letter of 21 January 2019, the Minister acknowledged that there were “legitimate concerns” that the proposed Directive would not improve the functioning of the internal market, adding:

“[…] in the Government’s view, the use of Article 114 to advance these proposals is not justified”

1.4She explained that Transport Ministers had considered a revised Austrian Presidency text in December 2018 which would push back the date for implementing the proposed Directive by two years to April 2021, making it less likely that it would apply to the UK during any post-exit transition/implementation period. Whilst supporting any change which would delay the implementation of the proposed Directive, the Minister reiterated her continued opposition to its content and indicated that the Government was part of “a like-minded group of Member States” opposing the measure. She noted that the Romanian Presidency (in office since January 2019) did not intend to organise any Council working groups during the first three months of its Presidency and that it was as yet unclear whether the Transport Council on 6 June 2019 would be invited to agree a General Approach.

1.5We asked the Minister:

We also asked her to provide details of the European Parliament’s position.

1.6In her letter of 4 April 2019, the Minister reiterates that the Government “does not believe there is any case for changing the current arrangements” and is “working with Member States and the Commission to convince them of this position”. She confirms that no negotiations have taken place so far this year but expects them to resume in the second half of the Romanian Presidency. It is unclear whether the proposed Directive will be on the agenda for the next Transport Council in June.

1.7The Minister shares our concern that the proposed Directive could result in greater variation of times zones across the EU and indicates that “others have raised concerns about the use of Article 114 in this way”. She says the Government will “continue to work with Member States to seek clarification on the legal base and to press the Commission for a more detailed impact assessment”.

1.8The Minister reminds us that the European Parliament was an early proponent of changes to current EU law to discontinue seasonal clock changes. The Transport Committee (along with other EP Committees with an interest in the proposed Directive) has nonetheless criticised the European Commission for failing to carry out a full impact assessment before publishing its proposal. At its plenary session on 26 March 2019, the European Parliament agreed a resolution setting out its position on the proposed Directive.4 Whilst supporting the Commission’s proposal, the European Parliament says that the changes should only take effect in Member States from 1 April 2021, two years later than originally envisaged by the Commission.

Our Conclusions

1.9The Minister is unwilling to disclose whether the Council Legal Service has been asked to produce an opinion on the use of an internal market (Article 114 TFEU) legal base for the proposed Directive. Given that the UK is not alone in raising concerns about the choice of legal base, we remain of the view that an opinion should be requested.

1.10The European Parliament supports a later implementation date for the proposed Directive—1 April 2021 rather than 1 April 2019 as originally proposed by the European Commission—and envisages that this time should be used to carry out a wide-ranging consultation at Member State level on the implications of discontinuing seasonal time changes. It also proposes a new EU-level coordination mechanism to “discuss and assess the potential impact of the envisaged change on the functioning of the internal market, in order to avoid significant disruptions”. Should the Commission determine that the decision taken by each Member State to opt for permanent summer or winter time might “significantly and permanently hamper the proper functioning of the internal market”, it may adopt a delegated act to postpone the date for implementing the proposed Directive by up to 12 months and, during this period, bring forward a different legislative proposal.5

1.11We ask the Minister to provide an update on developments ahead of the June Transport Council which sets out:

1.12Given the continued uncertainty as to the date on which the UK will leave the EU, we cannot exclude the possibility that the UK may be required to apply the Directive domestically and to choose definitively between permanent summer or winter time. In the absence of a full impact assessment by the European Commission and the European Parliament’s expectation that each Member State will carry out its own stakeholder consultation, we ask the Minister whether the Government intends to review its earlier decision not to consult formally on the proposal.

1.13Pending further information, the proposed Directive remains under scrutiny. We draw this chapter to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee and the Committee on Exiting the European Union.

Full details of the documents

Proposal for a Directive discontinuing seasonal changes of time and repealing Directive 2000/84/EC: (40063), 12118/18 + ADD 1, COM(18) 639.

Previous Committee Reports

Fifty-third Report HC 301–lii (2017–19), chapter 1 (30 January 2019), Forty-sixth Report HC 301–xlv (2017–19), chapter 4 (28 November 2018) and Forty-second Report HC 301–xli (2017–19), chapter 1 (31 October 2018).

1 The current rules on summertime arrangements are set out in Council Directive 2000/84/EC.

2 The House of Lords and the Danish Parliament each issued a Reasoned Opinion but the threshold needed to trigger a formal review of the proposal by the European Commission was not met.

3 There are three standard time zones within the EU: Western European or Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) covering the UK, Ireland and Portugal; Central European Time (GMT+1) covering 17 Member States; and Eastern European Time (GMT+2) covering eight Member States. Existing EU law coordinates the dates on which seasonal time changes begin and end, meaning that there is never more than two hours’ difference in time across all EU Member States. Depending on the decisions taken by each Member State, the proposed Directive could create further variation (GMT+3) in some parts of the EU.

4 Resolution adopted on 26 March 2019, Discontinuing seasonal changes of time.

5 See Articles 2 and 4a of the European Parliament’s legislative resolution agreed on 26 March 2019.

Published: 30 April 2019