The island of Jersey has rejected Central European Time (CET) in favor of retaining Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) after a referendum on the issue was held on October 15, 2008. An overwhelming majority (over 72 percent) of voters on the island chose to say “no” to CET, although the island is geographically much closer to France, which observes CET, than it is to England, which observes GMT.
Regardless of the outcome, there are many people who still feel that Jersey would benefit more from CET instead of GMT. One politician who strongly pushed for CET is Senator Jim Perchard, who believes that the CET debate may be instigated again in the United Kingdom. CET is one hour ahead of GMT, which is in the same time zone as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Both CET and GMT are used during the non-daylight saving period.
Voters Say “No” To CET
Early results from the October 15 referendum on Central European Time showed that more than 17,200 voters said “no” to Central European Time. Only about 6500 voters said “yes” to move the clocks one hour forward from GMT to CET to be in line with France and many other European countries. Most of the results were counted by this stage.
When timeanddate.com contacted the government in Jersey to find out more about the referendum, it was advised that the results gave the government information about which time zone residents preferred to observe. “The purpose of the referendum is to listen to the wishes of the people. It indicates what the general public thinks,” a government spokesperson said. The referendum on people’s views about Jersey’s time zone is one of the first referendums held on the island in a while.
A Change Of Time Could Have Caused Disrupted Business
Prior to the referendum, many Jersey businesses were against the idea of Jersey being one hour ahead of the United Kingdom’s main islands (eg. England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). This is because many of them would struggle to keep up with the time differences with businesses from the main islands.
Some organizations within Jersey’s finance industry, which the island depends on, already complained that a time zone change to CET could disrupt business trading hours with offices in London. These organizations spoke out about the inconvenience such a change could case to their daily schedules, where they would operate on different lunch hours and working times to those of their counterparts in London.
Some farmers are also against any change to the current time zone in Jersey. They believe that an extra hour of darkness in the morning is detrimental to the start of their work day, particularly with regard to activities such as milking cows. Moreover, some people believe that the referendum is a waste of tax payers’ money.
CET Supporters Not Giving Up
One of Jersey’s politicians, Senator Jim Perchard, still strongly supports the push for Jersey to adopt CET. In the recent past he was vocal about seeing Jersey’s time zone change to CET because of a closer connection between the island and its neighbor, France. After making contact with Senator Perchard, timeanddate.com received a response about his views on the issue in the aftermath of the referendum.
Senator Perchard said that it became clear to him that residents of Jersey felt that the island’s best interests might not be served by operating at an hour’s differential from the United Kingdom (UK). “I know many of them were worried about the effects on business, on travel and on media communications. Some people expressed views on being British and I think they may have used the opportunity provided by this referendum to express their loyalty to Britain. Of course – I understand and respect this view,” he said.
“However, I do believe that most (Jersey) Islanders would wish to adopt Central European Time– but only if Jersey was to move at the same time as the UK – many people told me this, as they generally accept the positive arguments that support the daylight saving principle. I believe that Jersey through this referendum has sent a message to Westminster and that the CET debate may well be instigated again in the UK. I am delighted that the referendum has provided the opportunity for the Jersey electorate to be heard on this subject.”
Senator Perchard’s push is supported by others who believe that the island’s lifestyle and culture has more in common with France than the United Kingdom. They believe that the island’s continental lifestyle must be maintained because it is a good promotional tool to attract tourists.
What Could Have Happened If Voters Said “Yes” To The Change?
Had the results gone the other way, where voters said “yes” to the change instead of “no”, any proposal that a politician makes to the government could have taken into consideration the results as an indication that most voters wanted the change. The proposal must then be approved by the government. However, nothing will happen unless the government decides to change the island’s time zone and if the government decides to do so, a law must be drafted.
If at any stage in the future the government plans to observe CET instead of GMT during the winter months and Central European Summer Time (CEST) instead of British Summer Time (BST) in the summer months, Jersey will be one hour ahead of major cities in the United Kingdom, such as London.
Jersey is the most southerly island of the British Isles but is much closer to France than England. It is about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of mainland Britain compared with being just 14 miles (22 kilometers) west of France’s coast. Jersey is a parliamentary democracy which is a dependency of the British Crown. It is a British island, but is not part of the United Kingdom. Nor is it a colony. Constitutionally, its status is that of a Crown Peculiar.
Note: References made about summer and winter in this article relate to summer and winter in the northern hemisphere.