BIG BEN MUST BONG FOR BREXIT
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.”