BIG BEN MUST BONG FOR BREXIT

Daily Express - - Front Page - By Macer Hall Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

3,338 days ago the Daily Ex­press urged ‘Get Bri­tain out of the EU.’ When the clock strikes 11pm on Jan­uary 31, our blessed free­dom from the con­fines of Brus­sels will be se­cure and a new chap­ter in the great his­tory of this na­tion will be­gin. As a po­tent sym­bol of this land­mark mo­ment, one thing is cer­tain...

BORIS JOHN­SON has made an ex­tra­or­di­nary plea for a pub­lic fundrais­ing cam­paign to al­low Big Ben to chime as Bri­tain quits the EU at the end of this month.

The Prime Min­is­ter spoke out yes­ter­day af­ter Com­mons au­thor­i­ties claimed that re­ac­ti­vat­ing West­min­ster’s iconic bell to mark the his­toric mo­ment of Brexit could cost more than £500,000. MPs im­me­di­ately backed his call for a crowd-fund­ing ef­fort to raise the cash, in­sist­ing the fa­mous bongs must ring out at 11pm on Jan­uary 31 when the UK is set to for­mally cut ties with Brus­sels. And an

in­ter­net poll by Ex­press.co.uk also found that 89 per cent want the 13-ton bell to ring to mark the his­toric mo­ment of de­par­ture.

Mr John­son made his plea for do­na­tions in a BBC Break­fast in­ter­view yes­ter­day.

He said: “The bongs cost £500,000 but we’re work­ing up a plan so peo­ple can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong be­cause there are some peo­ple who want to.

“Be­cause Big Ben is be­ing re­fur­bished, they seem to have taken the clap­per away, so we need to re­store the clap­per in or­der to bong Big Ben on Brexit night.

“That is ex­pen­sive, so we’re look­ing at whether the pub­lic can fund it.”

The eye-wa­ter­ing fig­ure for re­ac­ti­vat­ing Big Ben was raised at a meet­ing of the House of Com­mons Com­mis­sion yes­ter­day.

In a state­ment, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who chairs the body, said: “The Com­mis­sion be­lieves it is im­por­tant to weigh up the costs this would in­volve – you are talk­ing about £50,000-a-bong.

“We also have to bear in mind that the only peo­ple who will hear it will be those who live near or are vis­it­ing West­min­ster.”

Big Ben has been largely si­lenced since 2017 to pro­tect the hear­ing of main­te­nance staff work­ing on re­fur­bish­ing the El­iz­a­beth Tower, yet the chimes were tem­po­rar­ily re­stored for last year’s Re­mem­brance Sun­day cer­e­mony and New Year’s Eve.

Com­mons of­fi­cials say re­ac­ti­vat­ing the bell again for Brexit night would re­quire a tem­po­rary strik­ing mech­a­nism to be re-at­tached and tested and a tem­po­rary floor installed in the bel­fry of the El­iz­a­beth Tower.

They es­ti­mated the cost of that work alone at £120,000.

De­lay­ing re­fur­bish­ment work in the bel­fry would also push back the planned pro­gramme of work by up to a month, with each week of de­lays adding an ex­tra £100,000 to the fi­nal re­pair bill.

In to­tal, the cost for Brexit night would be be­tween £320,000 and £500,000, of­fi­cials said.

The com­mis­sion de­cided the pro­posed ex­pen­di­ture of tax­payer’s cash could not be justified.

But Brexit-back­ing MPs called for a so­lu­tion – with many scep­ti­cal about the es­ti­mated costs.

Tory MP Tim Loughton wrote on Twitter: “Where has this ridicu­lous fig­ure of £500,000 come from?

“I’m happy to vol­un­teer to go up the bell tower with a sledge­ham­mer and bash Big Ben 11 times for free”.

Fel­low Tory Mark Fran­cois claimed that Com­mons of­fi­cials “clearly don’t want to do this”, while Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage was also scep­ti­cal about the £500,000 quote.

Peter Bone, a Tory MP and lead­ing Brexit cam­paigner, added: “If Big Ben can ring for the New Year, it cer­tainly can ring for a one-off na­tional event.

“How can we mark this mo­ment prop­erly if we don’t have this iconic sym­bol bong­ing?”

Tory donor Lord Ashcroft has also of­fered to sup­port a crowd-fund­ing cam­paign.

Re­fer­ring to an ear­lier es­ti­mate of £120,000, he wrote on Twitter: “If that’s the cost let’s crowd-fund it and I’ll un­der­write its suc­cess.”

White­hall in­sid­ers say the Govern­ment is work­ing on a pack­age of pro­pos­als for mark­ing Brexit, in­clud­ing fly­ing Union Flags around Par­lia­ment Square, while the Brexit Party has ap­plied to hold a party on Par­lia­ment Square.

MEP Richard Tice, who is or­gan­is­ing the event, said: “The mo­ment the UK leaves the Euro­pean Union will be a huge con­sti­tu­tional and cul­tural mo­ment in our na­tion’s his­tory.

“It should be a pos­i­tive and ex­cit­ing mo­ment and the Bri­tish pub­lic must be al­lowed to cel­e­brate in Par­lia­ment Square.

“We find it dis­ap­point­ing that Big Ben will not be al­lowed to ring out on this mo­men­tous night.

“We still hope com­mon sense can pre­vail but if not we’ll pro­vide the sound of the fa­mous bell on our speaker sys­tem.

“It will be watched and lis­tened to around the world.

He added: “We’ve ex­pe­ri­enced phe­nom­e­nal in­ter­est with more than 15,000 peo­ple reg­is­ter­ing to at­tend in just a cou­ple of days.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.