Will Big Ben bong for Brexit? Government considers calls for bell to chime on 31 January

Boris Johnson is considering a plan to ask the public to pay for Big Ben to chime on Brexit night.

The government is looking at ways in which it can afford to foot the bill for the Great Bell to ring out on 31 January, when Britain is scheduled to leave the EU.

The prime minister said Britons may be able to “bung a bob for a Big Ben bong” under government plans.

The Union flag flutters near the clock face of Big Ben during ongoing renovations to the Tower and the Houses of Parliament (AFP)
Boris Johnson told BBC Breakfast viewers of plans to have Big Ben ringing for Brexit (BBC/PA)

The famous bell was temporarily silenced in 2017 for the safety of workers involved in a four-year restoration scheme of the Elizabeth Tower in which it is housed.

But there have been calls for it to chime at 11pm on 31 January to mark Britain’s departure from the EU.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of the House of Commons commission on Monday, but it was ultimately ruled out after it was revealed that it would cost £500,000, up from the original estimate of £120,000.

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The expanded budget stems from the need to put in and remove a temporary floor in order to ring the bell.

But in an interview with BBC Breakfast on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said the government was working up a plan to fund the costs to enable the bell to chime.

“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,” he told interviewer Dan Walker.

“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.

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

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