FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in the Stormont Parliament Buildings in Belfast, Northern Ireland, January 13, 2020. Liam McBurney/Pool via REUTERS
LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday the government was considering a crowdfunding campaign to allow Big Ben, currently silenced for renovation, to ring out the moment Britain is due to leave the European Union.
The 13.7-tonne bell has been largely silent since 2017 while renovation works are carried out on the Elizabeth Tower which houses it, sounding only for important events such as New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Johnson said one of the main problems was that it would cost 500,000 pounds to allow Big Ben to sound at 2300 GMT on Jan. 31, the moment Brexit is officially due to take place, but were looking at whether people could donate cash to pay for it.
“But we are working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong,” Johnson told the BBC in an interview. “As everybody knows 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.”
A group of pro-Brexit members of parliament have spearheaded a campaign to chime Britain out of the EU, sounding the death knell for almost half a century of integration with the bloc.
But an attempt to have it enshrined in law that Big Ben would chime for Brexit failed last week.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage is planning to host a party in Parliament Square on Jan. 31 where supporters of leaving the EU would be able to hear Big Ben ring out.
Big Ben’s tower, in the Palace of Westminster, has been under construction since 2017 and the work is not due to be completed until 2021.
Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; editing by Michael Holden