Nearly half of British public don't want Big Ben to chime for Brexit, poll suggests

George Martin
A view of the Victoria Tower, left, and the Elizabeth Tower, which holds the bell known as "Big Ben", in London, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. British euroskeptic politician Nigel Farage is trying to ramp up the pressure on Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He warned that his Brexit Party will run against the Conservatives across the country in the Dec. 12 general election unless Johnson abandons his divorce deal with the European Union. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
A poll suggested 49% of Britons do not want the bells to chime to mark Brexit Day (AP)

Nearly half of Britons do not think that Big Ben should chime to mark Britain’s departure from the EU on January 31, a poll has suggested.

A survey conducted by polling agency YouGov suggested that 49% of people believe the bells should stay silent, compared with just 37% who want them to ring out across London.

The famous bell was temporarily silenced in 2017 for the safety of workers involved in the four-year restoration of the Elizabeth Tower.

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

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaks in the Parliament Buildings at Stormont, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Monday Jan. 13, 2020, as the power sharing  Northern Ireland assembly starts up. (Liam McBurney/PA via AP)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested the public could raise money to pay for the chimes to ring out (AP)

The YouGov poll asked people whether they believed “the day Britain leaves the European Union should be added to the list of special occasions when Big Ben chimes?”

A total of 1,724 adults were surveyed, with those aged 18 to 49 most opposed to the proposals.

It comes as prime minister Boris Johnson said Britons may be able to “bung a bob for a Big Ben bong” on Brexit night under plans being drawn up by the government.


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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 could cost £500,000, up from the original estimate of £120,000.

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

But the prime minister, in an interview with BBC Breakfast, said ministers were 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 said.

“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.”

Downing Street said there was not a specific government fund but insisted that whatever happened with the famous bell, Brexit Day would be properly marked.